Mental Illness Affecting Young People – Part 5

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.

 Health Policies to Improve Children’s Mental Health

New health policies are having a wide scale impact on the early detection and treatment of mental illness in children and youth. A critical component of reducing the toll of mental illness on individuals and communities is ensuring access to mental health services. In the United States, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) resulted in one of the largest expansions of mental health and substance use disorder treatment in our nation’s history, increasing access to services in four fundamental ways: 1) providing health insurance parity for mental illness for 62 million Americans; 2) prohibiting insurance plans from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions including mental illness; 3) including coverage for preventive and early detection services including depression screenings; and 4) allowing young people up to the age of 26 to stay on their parent’s health insurance.

Much progress has been made to increase awareness of mental disorders in young people and improve access to effective mental health services in schools and communities. Early identification and intervention is a cornerstone in reducing the long-term complications of mental disorders for children and adolescents during these crucial developmental years. Parents, educators, advocates, pediatricians and other health care professionals as well as policymakers all have important roles to play in enabling our nation’s children to realize their full potential as they grow into adults with healthy bodies and healthy minds. Additionally, more resources are needed to provide effective mental health services and interventions for substance abuse for youth in the United States. Improving the mental health of young people with evidenced-based public policies must be national priority in the days and years ahead. Youth are 33 percent of the U.S. population but they are 100 percent of our nation’s future.

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.