By ABCS RCM
How common are mental health conditions in the United States? In particular, what are current mental health trends for the most vulnerable members of American society – children. Research is suggesting that rates of reported mental illness are on the rise for kids across the nation.
Rates of Mental Illness in America:
Mental health is especially important due to the fact that it is a key indicator for overall physical health. Mental health conditions, especially depression, increases the risk for many types of physical health problems, particularly long-lasting conditions like stroke, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Similarly, the presence of chronic health conditions can increase the long-term risk for mental illness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mental illnesses are the most common health conditions in America. The CDC states that over 50 percent of Americans will receive a mental illness diagnosis or have a disorder at some point in their lifetime. Roughly 20 percent of the U.S population will experience a mental health condition in a given year. For more serious, debilitating mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression; 1 in 25 Americans will have their lives disrupted by these mental disorders.
Out of these sobering statistics, 20 percent of American children either currently have, or will develop a debilitating mental illness at some point in their life.
Schools, Mental Health and Children:
Some observers have called this a silent public health epidemic. With the CDC reporting that 1 in 5 kids displaying signs or symptoms of a mental health disorder in a given year. However, the vast majority of children who need mental health services will not receive any treatment or therapy. This is creating a hidden crisis that is affecting millions of students in the United States.
Whether these behavioral health conditions are treated or not, the problems that these illnesses generate are visible in the educational data. Chronic absenteeism, disruptive behavior, failing grades and dropping out of school are all indicators of deeper mental health problems.
Some experts argue that schools could do a better job of identifying struggling students and providing them with the necessary social and academic supports. However, this is a role that most schools are unable to fully provide. According to NPR, U.S. education does not have the necessary resources to sufficiently treat childhood mental illness. Many schools suffer from a lack of resources which means struggling kids may not receive the support that they need.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Children:
The nationwide health insurance provider Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) recently released their Health Index. This report looked at the overall health of the nation in a variety of demographics and health conditions. For children’s health, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was the second most impactful condition in the United States. Children diagnosed with ADHD struggle with paying attention, controlling impulses and are often considered overly active.
BCBS states that this mental health condition accounts for 16 percent of all health conditions for this generation which is named Generation Z (ages 0-19.) In 2017, about 2.4 million commercially insured children were diagnosed with ADHD. This was over a 30 percent increase over the past eight years. ADHD is now the most prevalent as a mental health condition among middle school-aged children ages 11-13 years old. Out of this group, boys are diagnosed with ADHD at about twice the rate of girls. With ADHD diagnosis on the rise, it is crucial to better understand the impact of this condition on the health of American children.
Children and Psychiatric Emergency Department Visits:
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there has been a significant increase in psychiatric emergency department (ED) visits for children and young adults. The AAP conducted the study in April of 2019 investigated emergency department visits between the years 2011 and 2015. What was discovered was that there was a 28 percent increase in overall psychiatric visits among children and young adults, ages 6 to 24 years of age.
The largest increases in ED visits occurred among teens, young adults and non-white youths. Among adolescents, there was an increase in suicide-related visits. This increase in visits was nearly 2.5 times greater in 2015 when compared to the data from 2011.
More than half of these visits lasted longer than three hours. Yet, out of all of the emergency department visits, only 16 percent of patients received treatment from a mental health specialist. Surprisingly, when the ED visits were for suicide or self-harm, only 36 percent of the cases involved treatment by a mental health professional.
The AAP study concludes that the lack of behavioral health providers in U.S. emergency departments is a missed opportunity for a better treatment experience. Clearly, there is a need for mental health professionals in emergency departments.
Beyond Children - From Generation Z, Millennials and Generation X:
The upward trend of mental illness in younger generations of Americans has already been documented. Perhaps, the rising rates of mental illness in children is part of a larger overall health trend in the United States. The previously mentioned health index report from Blue Cross Blue Shield also looked at statistics on the Millennial generation. This cohort of U.S. citizens is made up of roughly 73 million people and includes individuals born between 1981 to 1996. Out of this population group, 55 million Millennial Americans are commercially insured through BCBS.
Additional data analysis by BCBS compared millennials to generation X members when they were in the same age range. This analysis indicated that older Millennials have higher prevalence rates for chronic and acute health conditions for nearly all of the top 10 conditions than did Generation X members. This means that the rise in mental health conditions among Generation Z could also be reflected in the younger population of Millennials.
With American children facing health challenges at earlier ages than previous generations, it is critical that more resources are allocated to this area. Otherwise, the long-term health and wellness of the children are at risk.
For questions about counseling services for children and adults, contact Providers For Healthy Living. They have been providing experienced behavioral health treatments since 2011. They strive to have every patient feel more hopeful after interacting with a member of their staff. Their practice was built on the values of quality, hope and personal responsibility.
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