February 10, 2014
Mental Health and Children
Written by Rachel Eddins
Mental Health and Our Forgotten Children
When it comes to mental disorders, 10% of our children are falling through the cracks.
There are roughly 315 million people in the US with 1/4th of the population under the age of 18 (About 78 million children). 1/5th of those have a mental disorder (about 15 million) and 1/2 of children with mental disorders will never receive help (about 7.5 million) – that’s 10% of children and 2.5% of the population.
Childhood mental health disorders can include:
- Major Depressive Disorder
- Bipolar Disorder
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Separation Anxiety Disorder
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Social Phobia
- Specific Phobia
These mental health disorders in children can lead in adulthood to:
- Substance use, abuse, or dependence
- Sexual risk-taking behavior
- Criminal behavior
- Poor coping and social skills
Percent of children ages 3-17 who currently have a mental disorder:
- ADHD 6.8% 4,188,000
- Behavioral or conduct problems 3.5% 2,156,000
- Anxiety 3.0% 1,848,000
- Depression 2.1% 1,293,000
- Autism spectrum disorders. 1.1% 678,000
- Tourette syndrome. 0.2% 99,000
- Illicit drug use disorder. 4.7% 1,155,000
- Alcohol use disorder. 4.2% 1,028,000
- Cigarette dependence. 2.8% 691,000
An estimated 40% of children with mental disorders have more than one.
Mental disorders are among the most costly conditions to treat in children. The cost of mental disorders among persons under aged 24 in the U.S. is $247 billion. (including health care, use of services such as special education and juvenile justice, and decreased productivity)
- 4-6%: percentage of the U.S. population with ADHD
- 2-5% adults
- 3-7% children estimated to have ADHD / 8-10% for school aged children
- There is a 25-35% chance of having ADHD if a family member has it, compared to 4-6% without a family history.
Overlooked Mental Health in Adults
- 1/2 – 2/3 of children with ADHD continue to have symptoms into adulthood.
- 50% of the doctors said they do not feel confident in diagnosing ADHD in adults, here’s why…
- Adults consider their problems to be the result of character flaws.
- Patients who live with AD/HD or ODD tend to assume that it is normal.
- Many people presume that ADHD is a male disorder in childhood.
- Everyone exhibits some of these symptoms some of the time.
Overlooked Mental Health in Girls
- Boys are 3x more likely to be diagnosed than girls.
- Men are 2x more likely to be diagnosed than women.
- Females are more likely to go undiagnosed because…
- ADD is still presumed to be a male disorder
- Girls are more likely than boys to suffer from inattentive ADHD, which includes poor attention to
detail, limited attention span, forgetfulness, distractibility, and failure to finish assigned activities.
- Boys are more likely to have Hyperactivity-Impulsivity ADHD
- Girls exhibit hyperactivity differently than boys: a boy might shout, tap his feet or bang things
while a girl might just talk a lot.
- Thus, disruptive boys are noticed for evaluation before ‘chatty’ or inattentive girls.
Overlooked Mental Health in Children
- Symptoms of ADHD are often mistaken for other behavioral disorders.
- 50% of children with ADHD also exhibit negative, hostile and defiant behavior
- 40% of children with ADHD also exhibit destructiveness and aggression towards people and animals.
- 25% of children with ADHD also experience anxiety, depression, and some type of communication/learning disability.
Debunking myths about child mental health is key:
MYTH: A child with a psychiatric disorder is damaged for life.
Truth: A psychiatric disorder is by no means an indication of a child’s potential for future happiness and fulfillment. Early intervention can help.
MYTH: Psychiatric problems result from personal weakness.
Truth: It can be difficult to separate the symptoms of a child’s psychiatric disorder from a child’s character. A psychiatric disorder is an illness not a personal flaw, just like diabetes or leukemia.
MYTH: Psychiatric disorders result from bad parenting.
Truth: Parenting isn’t to blame. Anxiety, depression, and learning disorders often have biological causes.
MYTH: A child can manage a psychiatric disorder through willpower.
Truth: A disorder is not mild anxiety or a change in mood. Some parents resist mental health services for their children because they fear the stigma attached to diagnoses, or they don’t want their kids dependent on psychiatric drugs.
MYTH: Therapy for kids is a waste of time.
Truth: Research has shown that treatment interventions have the best results during the first few years when symptoms of psychiatric disorders appear.
MYTH: Children are over-medicated.
Truth: Skilled psychiatrists use great caution when deciding on a treatment plan that includes medication, which usually involves behavioral therapy. Medication is not the norm. Only 5% of children with psychiatric issues take medication.
MYTH: Children grow out of mental health problems.
Truth: Children are less likely to “grow out” of psychiatric disorders than they are to “grow in” to more disability.
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