According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 13% of children ages 8 to 15 experience a diagnosable mental health issue each year. ADHD is the most common diagnosis, with 8.5% of children experiencing this issue. Major depression takes second place, affecting 2.7% of kids each year. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, more children are receiving help for mental health issues.
More Children Receiving Help for Mental Health Challenges
To explore how many children receive mental health treatment, researchers culled data from government surveys conducted between 1996 and 2012. Between 1996 and 1998, about 9% of U.S. children between the ages of 6 and 17 sought mental health treatment. By 2012, the figure had increased to 13%.
Many child advocates and parents have expressed concerns that children’s normal behavior is increasingly stigmatized, or even that children are over-medicated or over-treated. To assess whether this is the case, researchers explored the severity of issues for which children received treatment. They relied on parent rankings on a standardized scale, so their assessment explored the parents’ subjective assessment of the child’s symptoms, not the symptoms’ objective severity.
They found that children with relatively minor problems accounted for a large portion of the treatment increase. In 2012, 4.2 million children with minor issues were in treatment, compared to 2.7 million between 1996 and 1998. Among children with severe problems, 26% sought mental health assistance in the 1990s, compared to 44% today. While this marks an improvement, it suggests that the majority of children with severe problems still don’t receive the help they need. In a hopeful sign for children’s mental health, though, researchers found that the rate of children with severe mental health symptoms dropped from 13% in the 1990s to 11% today.
Though concerns about over-medication of children may persist, barriers to care also persist. Mental health stigma, financial barriers, time constraints, and difficulty finding a quality provider can delay care, or even altogether foreclose the possibility of therapy.
- Any disorder among children. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-disorder-among-children.shtml
- Norton, A. (2015, May 21). More kids getting mental health treatment. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/more-kids-getting-mental-health-treatment/
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