Updated: Reality of children’s mental health issues are terrifying with few answers.

This was a very hard piece of writing to do. Lot of hurt thinking of kids that aren’t here that could be had they got the help they needed. Others are going through immense suffering with little or no help available

One in three children – all the way through teenage years – are faced with some type of mental illness in the United States. This can range from mild depression to cutting to suicide. More are turning to illegal drugs or violence to deal with their illness because they are unable to access the help they need. Why is it so hard to get children the help they need? Well, that depends on where they live and what environment surrounds them.

There was a recent journal article in American Academy of Pediatrics –link to article. It notes that while overall there has been an increase in child psychologists in the United States. There is still a severe epidemic in the country overall. This is especially in poor communities and rural areas.

What this means is that over half the children with mental disorders are not getting diagnosed or treated and carry their ailments into adulthood. The hardest hit, either low income minority or rural areas, try to get more psychologists by offering financial incentives such as student loan forgiveness. Still, only about 13 percent of psychologists take advantage of these programs as the attraction to higher socio-economic areas is overwhelmingly attractive to the profession. Many in the profession do not want to accept Medicaid, the single largest payer for mental health services in the United States.

In lower income areas, insurance companies often refuse to offer coverage equality for mental and physical concerns. It’s common for claims to be denied, for insurance to pay for medication, or for companies to place limitations on how many therapy sessions a child can receive.

Things look worse when the report states 70 percent of counties in the United States do not have a child psychologist. This equates to 1 in 5 children still live in a county without a child psychiatrist.

The solution being proposed in these areas is to have pediatricians get further training in screening for mental health issues. The big disorders that are more prevalent and probably within the scope of a pediatrician are things like ADHD, anxiety, depression and substance abuse.

“There is a huge shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists and increasing prevalence of these problems,” said Dr. Cori Green, a pediatrician at NY-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell. “We can help play a more effective role so that more children get recognized and into treatment.”

With the teen suicide rates rising and addiction to vaping, opioids and fentanyl climbing with kids 13 to 17 years of age, answers are being studied by those in the medical field and at all levels of government. For now, pediatricians are receiving more training on screening and treating mental illness.

States are trying to find solutions to the mental health crisis affecting children. They are passing laws that order all schools have a specialist trained in mental health problems at every schools. Teachers and citizens in communities are undertaking training for identifying problems in young people. There have been calls for changes in Medicare laws so more specialists will want to work in low-income areas where the problem is at its worst. States are facing lawsuits from families of suicide victims for lack of mental health treatment that could have saved their child. Link to one such lawsuit

One option is to go beyond our nation’s borders. Graduates of international medical schools, by contrast, select primary care residencies at nearly double the rate of U.S. graduates. International medical graduates are also more willing than their domestically trained counterparts to practice in rural parts of the country.

There are politicians running for president on a Medicare-for-all platform. They see mental health care as a human right. The challenge with these programs is costs and where funding, which would be in the tens of trillions of dollars, would be generated from.

While all these solutions are being either studied or tried, kids are suffering. Most have no where to go for help because of living in poverty. This is what it comes to; the spike in the mental health and suicides.

How is this affecting our children –

  • Current suicide rates: one suicide every five days ages 5-12. For teenagers, an average of 3,069 attempt suicide every day.
  • Suicide attempts by blacks have risen by 73% since 2007.
  • LGBTQ youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth according to the Trevor Project.
  • Approximately 575,000 children go to a hospital for self harm yearly.
  • 7.4% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.5 million) have a diagnosed behavior problem.
  • 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety
  • 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have diagnosed depression
  • 1 in 6 U.S. children aged 2–8 years (17.4%) had a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder.

I leave this blog post with one final alarming statistic:

  • Of the 74.5 million children in the United States, an estimated 17.1 million have or have had a psychiatric disorder. This is more than the number of children with cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. Only 20 percent of these children are ever diagnosed and receive treatment; 80 percent — about 12 million — aren’t receiving treatment.

Scared enough? I am.

What solutions would you do to improve mental health care for children? I ask you to comment below on a very serious issues reaching epidemic proportions

There will not be a new post this Wednesday because of the importance of this issue.

13 thoughts on “Updated: Reality of children’s mental health issues are terrifying with few answers.

  1. This is a sad. It makes me feel lucky that I was able to get the help I needed when I was younger. I wish I could afford it now but I can’t. Especially when the cost of my insurance has gone up. Kids are the most vulnerable when you think about what they deal with

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  2. Great post. It’s really important to shine a light on the state of mental health care. The only other thing I would add is that we need more early intervention/prevention. Whilst it’s 100% important to have services in place to look after the 1 in 3 who need additional support we need schemes and practices in place to support the 3 in 3 who have mental health. There’s too much pressure and expectation on kids nowadays. We’re forgetting their mental health too.

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  3. This is very heart breaking specially when you see all the numbers and statistics including the number of suicide and suicide attempts rising its extremely alarming, when I was a child you would rarely hear of these things and that was barely 10 years ago. Very heartbreaking

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  4. I agree with you but think the problem is larger. Why not address poverty and the root causes of American children’s distress? Vote politicians into office who care about social supports and universal healthcare, etc.. Unfortunately anxiety and depression are on the rise where I live in Ireland as well. A former classmate of my 16 year old son’s committed suicide last summer despite the psychiatric help he was receiving. I think cultural pressures (social media, etc) are also playing a part. Thanks for raising awareness on this important issue.

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