Mental Illness Affecting Young People – Part 2

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.

 Identifying The Causes

At the individual level, genetics and other biological factors contribute to a child’s likelihood of developing a mental disorder. A family history of mental illness increases the risk that a child will develop some mental disorders. Gender has an impact as well: boys are more likely to die by suicide and have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), behavioral or conduct problems, autism spectrum disorders, anxiety, Tourette syndrome, and substance abuse, whereas girls are more likely to have depression or an alcohol use disorder and attempt suicide. ADHD was the most prevalent current diagnosis among children aged 3-17 years. Researchers are acknowledging more and more how critical external factors ­including family situations, socioeconomic status, trauma, and physical and social environments influence the mental health of children and teenagers.

There are also disparities for racial and ethnic minorities. Poverty is a major risk factor: a report from the Urban Institute found that the prevalence of mental health problems was significantly higher for children and adolescents aged 6-17 living at or below the federal poverty level compared to those whose families had higher income levels.

Yet, for children identified to be at high risk, obtaining access to mental health services has been difficult. Approximately 85 percent of young people with mental disorders in juvenile detention centers reported at least one perceived barrier to mental health services. Hispanic and African American Children living in urban areas receive less mental health care compared to their Caucasian peers. Additionally, a recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that many children with mental disorders from low-income families eligible for federal benefits are not receiving them.

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.