Mental health problems among children are a major public health issue. The Center for Disease Control published a report this month—“Mental Health Surveillance Among Children”—that analyzed federal data and research from 2005 to 2011. The CDC reported that as many as 20% of American children experience some form of mental health disorder each year. This is the first comprehensive view of the state of mental health among the country’s children.
Although these disorders—including ADHD, depression, autism, and others—can have deleterious effects on children’s learning and emotional states, only 21% of children with disorders receive treatment. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) reports that there is a dearth of pediatric sub-specialists and psychiatrists who work with minors. The AACAP’s president, Martin J. Drell, stated that “Our current health care system does not meet the needs of these children.”
Data from a variety of studies was incorporated into the report, painting a gloomy portrait of the state of pediatric mental health. One found that from 1997 to 2010, hospital stays for children with mood disorders increased from 10 to 17 per 10,000 people. Another described the rates of suicide among various demographics: it is more common for boys to commit suicide than girls, for example. Over one-third of children who took their own lives were diagnosed with a mental disorder.
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder was the most commonly diagnosed issue that parents reported, affecting around 7% of children aged 3 to 17. Of those children, 3.5% have behavioral problems and another 3% experience issues with anxiety. Around 2.1% of children diagnosed with a disorder were reported to have depression, while around 1% have some form of autism.
Non-treatment of a mental health issue in childhood is often linked to criminal behavior or substance abuse, in addition to other problems that come along with a disorder.