Purpose: This report examines student mental health and learning disabilities along the continuum from childhood to college by examining diagnosing and prescribing patterns and potential implications for physician assistant (PA) faculty based on the Standards of the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) and the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM- 5, Section 2, Specific Learning Disorders). Methods: We reviewed existing data to compare decades of national patterns in diagnosing and prescribing for conditions that have known comorbidities with learning disabilities. By including quantitative and qualitative data from children, adolescents, undergraduate college students, and veterans, we illustrate the potential impact these patterns could have on some current and future applicants to PA educational programs and the requirements for PA faculty to address these needs. Results: Multiple national data sources revealed increasing numbers of children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), psychoactive prescriptions written for those under age 18, and self-reported increases in multiple psychological disorders among college students. More recent evidence shows a twofold increase in military veterans returning to college with posttraumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and depression. Conclusion: The growing numbers of students with conditions described in this report requires academic faculty to be aware of requirements to recognize and address their mental health service needs. PA educators could benefit from supplemental faculty development activities to help prepare them to recognize the pipeline patterns of a growing percentage of postsecondary students with mental health conditions and learning disabilities.
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