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Silver School of Social Work studies mental health in adulthood

Posted on September 14, 2012 | by Anna Kanode

An August study from NYU’s Silver School of Social Work revealed that young adults who have a history of mental illness and used public system services in their younger years often stop seeking mental health services when they reach young adulthood.

“Static, dynamic, integrated and contextualized: A framework for understanding mental health service utilization among young adults,” focused on a demographic of 18- to 25-year-olds.

The study, a collaboration between associate professor Michelle Munson, professor James Jaccard, and colleagues from Georgia State University and Case Western Reserve University found that 42 percent of young adults from the Midwest who were previously involved with the public system discontinued using mental health services.

Of the 59 participants who were using services when they were interviewed, 22 percent were single gap-interrupted users, and 15 percent had several gaps in their mental health service use.

The study interviewed 60 young adults from the Midwest who shared common circumstances such as involvement with publicly funded systems of care: the child welfare system and the juvenile justice system.

Dr. Sumie Okazaki and the Gale and Ira Drukier dean, Dr. Mary Brabeck, both from the NYU Department of Applied Psychology in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, gave their input on the study.

“The results are important for understanding the obstacles to providing mental health services for adolescents and young adults,” Brabeck said. “We need to understand the obstacles, in order to overcome them and provide needed mental health services to this vulnerable population.”

Okazaki also provided advice for other young adults who might be going through similar issues.

“Many people have misconceptions about what it means to seek professional help, but seeing a counselor, a psychologist, a psychiatrist or other professionals does not mean the person is crazy or weak,” Okazaki said. “In fact, it takes courage and strength to acknowledge that getting help is the right thing to do when you are feeling anxious, depressed, helpless, hopeless or out of control.”

Young adults beginning college have many choices to make, including ones that affect their health. In the end, professionals agree that it is better to seek help than to ignore a problem.

“I think that some young adults may have been misdiagnosed with psychiatric disorders, which is why the percentage of those who discontinued was very high,” said Tisch sophomore Nicole Brown.

Anna Kanode is a contributing writer. Email her at


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