Mental Illness Affecting Young People – Part 1

October 5-11 is Mental Illness Awareness Week. Research indicates a correlation between mental illness and school violence. According to an article in the Huffington Post (10/6/2015) written by Susan Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.A., Public Health Editor, The Huffington Post; and Former U.S. Assistant Surgeon General, posted on Huffington Post entitled, “Writing a National Prescription to Improve the Mental Health of America’s Youth“, there is a given the high prevalence of mental disorders among children and adolescents in the United States.

 The Frightening Statistics

Mental illness affects up to 1 in 5 American youth, and are among the most economically costly conditions to treat in this population. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the cost of mental disorders including health care, use of services such as special education and juvenile justice, and decreased productivity for those under age 24 in the U.S. is an estimate $247 billion annually. Furthermore, half of lifetime cases of mental disorders begin by age 14 and three quarters of cases by age 24. A mental disorder left untreated is likely to result in the development of other concurrent mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders as well as long-term consequences including poorer performance in school and involvement with the juvenile justice system. Substance abuse and suicide are other serious and tragic consequences that are linked with mental disorders in American youth. 60-75 percent of young people with substance abuse problems have a co-occurring mental disorder. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in young people, ages 15-24, in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), more young Americans in this age group die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza and chronic lung disease combined. Given that 90 percent of those who commit suicide had a mental disorder at the time of their deaths, it is vital that we better understand the risk factors for these conditions in youth so as to detect them early and invest in treatment and other solutions that prevent their health damaging consequences.

Studies have found that nearly 50 percent of children and adolescents in the child welfare system have emotional/behavioral problems, whereas that figure jumps to over 70 percent for youth in the juvenile justice system. Children in military families, aged 11 to 17, reported a higher occurrence of emotional difficulties compared to the general population according to a study conducted by RAND.

If you — or someone you know — need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.