The prevalence of mental illness among children and adolescents is higher than you may think. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 4 million children and adolescents are affected by a serious mental illness in the U.S. And, 50% of individuals who will have a mental illness in their lifetime show signs and symptoms by the age of 14. In any given year, only 20% of children with mental disorders will be identified and receive mental health services. Finally, if left untreated, these young minds have an increased risk of suicide – studies have shown that over 90% of children and adolescents who complete suicide have a mental disorder. According to the National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey from the Centers for Disease Control, approximately half (50.6%) of children with a mental disorder received treatment for their disorder in the past year. Among the following diagnoses studied: ADHD, Conduct Disorder, Mood Disorder, and Anxiety – children with anxiety disorders were the least likely (32.2%) to have received treatment in the past year. In addition, the survey showed that females were 50% less likely to receive services for mental health conditions than males. These alarming statistics are concerning to our nation because millions of young people with mental illness are struggling with significant functional impairments – affecting their lives at school, at home, and with their peers. Left untreated, the result may lead to youth suicide. Recognizing signs and symptoms is the first step necessary to make a positive impact on recovery from mental illnesses. Early intervention and treatment are essential for success, productivity and a higher quality of life. However, stigma leaves many children and adolescents untreated and without adequate support or services. The best approach to finding early intervention and treatment is education. Learning about the symptoms of the mental health disorder, treatment options, and appropriate resources provides the chance for young minds to thrive, not just survive. Suicide prevention and mental health education programs offer the chance for youth to expand their knowledge base on mental illness, and spark a conversation about the life-changing effects each of these treatable illnesses have. Many types of community resources are available to those in need – NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) – offer support, education and advocacy for America’s youth and a brighter future.
Susie Piasecki, CRSS
NAMI DKK Recovery Coordinator
Caring for Every Child’s Mental Health. SAMHSA Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day May 9