Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week

Children's Mental Health Awareness Week

Children’s mental health is a topic receiving far more interest today than at any time in our past. With the prevalence of ADHD diagnoses, the rising number of children diagnosed with autism, and the number of children who suffer from depression at some time during their childhood, more resources and research are going into understanding common mental health disorders children may experience. Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week helps encourage acceptance and provide valuable information for parents of children affected by mental health disorders.

According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 percent of American children suffer from some type of mental disorder or illness, including major depression, mood disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, eating disorders and others, while recent reports by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services places that number at 20 percent.

The symptoms for childhood mental illness vary depending on the type of disorder. For a list of symptoms of common childhood mental illnesses, visit MedlinePlus. For a list of symptoms of common adolescent mental illnesses, visit this glossary of symptoms by the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

The issue is further complicated by a general lack of understanding and knowledge. This lack of knowledge has been a contributing factor in failure to diagnose and treat children suffering with mental disorders. In America, the likelihood that a child will be correctly diagnosed and receive help in the form of treatment or training is approximately 20 percent, according to National Health Policy Forum (NHPF)  Brief No. 799, recorded on June 4, 2004.

What hinders more accurate diagnosis and treatment?

According to Mental Health Literacy: Public Knowledge and Beliefs about Mental Disorders by A. F. Jorm, DSC, some of the most common reasons include lack of public knowledge regarding childhood mental disorders and illnesses, lack of access services that help diagnose and treat mental illnesses common to children, inability to recognize symptoms, and the perception that being diagnosed will place a stigma on the child. Being denied access to needed services is also listed as a common problem, according to the NHPF.

The Effects of Untreated Mental Disorders in Youth

Without the ability to recognize mental disorders or the desire to seek professional treatment, as well as lack of access to treatment, children whom suffer from mental illnesses and periodic mental disorders continue to suffer. For some, this takes a terrible toll, according to statistical data reported in NHPF Issue Brief No. 799.

  • Today, more than 50 percent of those between the ages of 15 and 24 suffering with a lifetime mental disorder also have a substance abuse problem. It is thought that these young people reach out to mind-altering substances to find relief for their illness not being supplied through proper treatment.
  • Children with severe emotional disturbances also have the highest high-school dropout rates.
  • Between 60 and 70 percent of children in the juvenile justice system have a psychiatric disorder.
  • Employment rates for people in America with mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety, are far less than their peers, at just 50 percent employment.
  • Without treatment, young people with a mental illness are more likely to attempt suicide.

It is important to note that children who receive care and support are more likely to have promising futures that include educational opportunities, gainful employment, and families of their own.

Summary

To combat issues relating to untreated childhood mental disorders, knowledge and understanding are needed.  Families with children affected by childhood mental disorders are encouraged to reach out for assistance to help provide their children the chance of a promising future.  If you know someone who may be suffering with a childhood mental illness, help give them hope.

Learn more about childhood mental illness through these trusted sources: 

The Hastings Center: Mental Health in Children and Adolescents

National Institute of Mental Health: Childhood Mental Disorders

National Alliance of Mental Illness NAMI: Facts on Children’s Mental Health in America

Teen Mental Health Organization: TeenMentalHealth.org

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: The Depressed Child

To find mental health providers and programs in your area, click here.

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