In a new study entitled “Mental Health Surveillance Among Children” which was published by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), they examined federal data and research related to the mental health of our nation’s youth from 2005 to 2011. The report estimates that up to 1 in 5 American kids experience a mental health challenge each year, while only 21% of those afflicted receive treatment.
The study found that millions of kids live with major depressive disorders, ADHD, anxiety, autism spectrum disorders, Tourette’s syndrome, and many other mental health maladies. The CDC reports that this study “is an important step to better understand childhood mental disorders and help children reach their full potential in life.”
Ruth Perou, PhD of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities stated “ Children of all ethnic backgrounds, races, genders and ages, in every area of the United States live with a mental disorder. We need surveys and data systems that provide the necessary mental health information to improve children’s health and wellbeing at home and in school. This will help children reach their full potential while reducing societal costs.”
In The Washington Post, Tony Pugh writes:
Childhood mental disorders that alter the way children learn, behave and cope with their emotions affect 13 percent to 20 percent of youths under age 18, the CDC said Thursday. They also cost families and society at large an estimated $247 billion a year in treatment, special education, juvenile justice and decreased productivity, it stated.
Although the prevalence, early onset and effect on society make childhood mental problems a major public health issue, only 21 percent of affected children get treatment because of a shortage of pediatric sub-specialists and child and adolescent psychiatrists, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
“Our current healthcare system does not meet the needs of these children,” Martin J. Drell, the group’s president, said last week in a statement about the problem.
Making matters worse, fewer medical students are opting for careers in children’s mental health, while the current crop of professionals is aging out of the workforce. The dearth of providers means troubled youngsters in underserved rural and urban areas are less likely to get timely care.
“Children with serious medical conditions should not have where they live determine what kind of health care services they receive,” said Thomas K. McInerny, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
It breaks my heart to learn that there are millions of kids across this country who face mental health challenges, with little to no help in understanding the challenges, or receiving the proper treatment and advice to cope with the adversity. Every mental health disorder is treatable, and some can be cured.
We have to equip our children with the tools to succeed in the future, and tending to their mental health needs is integral to ensuring their overall success in life. Hopefully a study like this will have an effect on our nation’s psyche, and it will force change.
The future of our country and our planet lies in the hands of our children. I feel strongly that it’s our responsibility as adults, to love our children unconditionally, and do everything in our power to ensure that we provide a solid education to every kid, with the best healthcare we can possibly provide. A good education and access to healthcare, isn’t a privilege. It’s a right, particularly for our children.
I hope that one day our nation’s laws will comport with the moral values I feel so strongly about. I’ve always believed that it is our responsibility to make the world a better place, so that we leave an enduring legacy for the generations that follow. Making a commitment to the mental health needs of our children would be a great place to start.
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