Typically the realm of mental health treatment is foreign and perplexing for parents. It’s often difficult for parents to discern if their child is undergoing normal developmental phases or if their child needs professional attention. When parents suspect that there is a problem, it’s difficult to know how to move forward and know who to turn to.
When to seek treatment for a child or teen
The following are some signs that suggest the child may be struggling:
- Behavior problems in school or social settings
- Hyperactivity or fidgeting beyond what is expected for age
- Excessive fears, sad or anxious feelings
- Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
- Decline in school work
- Aggressive behavior
- Constant disobedience and opposition to authority
- Poor relationships with peers
- Constant complains of physical illness
You should seek professional help and guidance for your child when the child’s symptoms and behaviors:
- Interfere with his/her functioning
- Are present in more than one setting (such as home, school, or social settings)
- Have lasted for more than six months
- Include other psychiatric problems, such as anxiety or depression
Questions you should ask about these symptoms include:
- How intense is the problem?
- How long has it lasted?
- Is it appropriate considering the child’s age?
- Does it interfere with the child’s and the family’s life?
Children and Adolescents: Facts about Mental Health
The reports by the U.S. Surgeon General and the New Freedom Commission on mental Health offer great hope to the millions of children and adolescents living with mental illness and their families. Living a productive life is possible for children and adolescents if the mental illness is properly identified, evaluated, and treated. Success is graspable in school, work, and in family life. unfortunately, majority of children with mental disorders fail to be identified and the lack of treatment and support results in a lower quality of life.
Prevalence of Child and Adolescent Mental Disorders:
- Four million children and adolescents in this country alone suffer from a serious mental disorder that disrupts the function of the home, school, and with peers. Of children ages 9 to 17, 21% have a diagnosable mental or addictive disorder that causes at least minimal impairment.
- Half of all lifetime cases of mental disorders begin by age 14. Despite effective treatments, there are long delays between the first onset of symptoms and when people seek and receive treatment. The longer the mental disorder goes untreated, the more severe and more difficulty to treat the illness can become.
- In any given year, only 20% of children with disorders are identified and receive health services.
Consequences of Untreated Mental Disorders in Children and Adolescents
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death in youth ages 15 to 24. More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease combined. Over 90% of children and adolescents who commit suicide have a mental disorder.
- In the U.S., in the year 2002, almost 4,300 young people ages 10 to 24 died of suicide.
- States spend nearly $1 billion annually on medical costs associated with completed suicides and suicide attempts by youth up to 20 years of age.
- Approximately 50% of students age 14 and older who are living with a mental illness drop out of high school. This rate is higher than any other disability group.
Juvenile and Criminal Justice Involvement
- Youth with unidentified and untreated mental disorders also tragically end up in jails and prisons. According to a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health—the largest ever undertaken—an alarming 65 percent of boys and 75 percent of girls in juvenile detention have at least one mental illness. We are incarcerating youth living with mental illness, some as young as eight years old, rather than identifying their conditions early and intervening with appropriate treatment.
Higher Health Care Utilization
- When children with untreated mental disorders become adults, they use more health care services and incur higher health care costs than other adults. Left untreated, childhood disorders are likely to persist and lead to a downward spiral of school failure, limited or non-existent employment opportunities and poverty in adulthood. No other illnesses harm so many children so seriously.
Early Identification, Evaluation and Treatment are Essential to Recovery and Resiliency
- Research shows that early identification and intervention can minimize the long-term disability of mental disorders.
- Mental disorders in children and adolescents are real and can be effectively treated, especially when identified and treated early.
- Research has yielded important advances in the development of effective treatment for children and adolescents living with mental illness. Early identification and treatment prevents the loss of critical developmental years that cannot be recovered and helps youth avoid years of unnecessary suffering.
- Early and effective mental health treatment can prevent a significant proportion of delinquent and violent youth from future violence and crime. It also enables children and adolescents to succeed in school, to develop socially and to fully experience the developmental opportunities of childhood.