Mental Illness Affects One in Five Children

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) tallies the number of American children suffering from a mental illness for the first time. Most efforts to study, understand, and treat mental illnesses focus on adults, and more recently on adolescents. This report is the first to try to get a full understanding of the impact of mental illness on children and teens. The results may surprise you, and show that 20 percent of American kids, between the ages of 3 and 17 have some type of mental health disorder.

The Survey Results

The report from the CDC takes its data from several sources covering the years from 2005 to 2011. From various information sources, the CDC estimates that one in five children presently has a mental illness. There are five disorders that are most common. No. 1 is attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, which affects one in 14 kids. One in 28 children in the U.S. has some type of behavioral disorder, one in 33 has an anxiety disorder, one in 50 has depression, and one in 100 has an autism spectrum disorder.

The report also lists the rates of children struggling with serious substance abuse problems, and finds that one in 20 and one in 25, respectively, have drug or alcohol dependence issues. Among kids between the ages of 12 and 17, suicide was the second leading cause of death.

An Issue of Public Health

How the results of the CDC report affect individuals is clear. Having a child or a teen with a mental illness, or substance abuse problem or who is suicidal means having a major challenge in your family. The toll that these issues take on the child and the family can be devastating, especially if the child is not getting adequate care.

The other major concern is the effect that mental illness and substance abuse have from a public health perspective. Mental illnesses are chronic, medical disorders that can persist for a lifetime. Without proper treatment, a child with a mental health disorder can have problems at school, at home, with having a normal social life, and even have physical problems. The results of poor mental health can have repercussions throughout a child’s life. The effects are far-reaching and impact all of society.

Recognizing Mental Illness in Children

The keys to helping the 20 percent of kids struggling with mental illness are prevention and treatment. When everyone, especially parents, teachers, and other adults active in the lives of children, are more aware of mental health problems, kids will get better access to treatment and care. If you have a child, learn about the signs and symptoms of mental illness, and get professional help through your pediatrician if you feel it is needed. Realize, though, that symptoms vary by individual. Here are some more common signs to watch for:

  • Behavioral problems, especially at school and when around other children
  • An inability to make friends or socialize in a normal way
  • Acts of aggression
  • Extreme anxiety, especially when separating from parents
  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Loss of interest in friends and activities
  • Extreme hyper episodes
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Noticeable sadness or listlessness
  • Hearing or seeing things that are not really there
  • Destructive behaviors, especially in teens
  • Withdrawing from friends and family, especially in teens
  • Talking or writing about harming oneself or others, especially in teens

Getting Help

If you notice any troubling signs of possible mental illness in your child, no matter what his age is, you need to seek medical attention. Some symptoms could be caused by a physical problem, but either way, you need to get the advice, diagnosis, and treatment of a professional. Start with your child’s pediatrician, who can then recommend a mental health professional for possible diagnosis. The sooner you get a diagnosis of an illness, the better chance you give your child to benefit from proper treatment. Mental illness is affecting more children than we ever imagined, which means that there is a good chance your child could be a part of the statistics. With early intervention and good care, however, there is no need to worry about the future.

Posted on July 9th, 2013
Posted in Prevention

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