Some adults believe that it’s impossible for children and teens to develop a mental illness. Perhaps they feel that children and teens are too young or haven’t had the life experience to develop an illness. Although this may be a popular idea, it is a myth. Children and teens are just as vulnerable to psychological illness as adults are. In fact, some youth might be at greater risk for developing a psychological illness if they’ve experienced trauma, neglect, abuse, or bullying.
The list below provides mental health facts that support the very real possibility of psychological illness in children and teens:
- One in five children and teens between the ages of 13 and 18 have or will have a serious mental illness.
- Roughly 11% of teens have a mood disorder (Depression, Bipolar Disorder, etc.)
- Approximately 10% of teens have a behavior or conduct disorder (Oppositional Defiant Disorder).
- About 8% of teens have an anxiety disorder (Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, etc.)
- According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (a panel of experts who advise the federal government on medicine and health policy) only 36% to 44% of children and adolescents with depression receive treatment.
- According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than 9 million children and teens (between the ages of 12 and 20) reported that they drank alcohol in the previous month.
- Research shows that one in seven teens between the ages of 10 and 18 will run away.
- According to the National Runaway Switchboard, on any given night there are approximately 1.3 million homeless youth living on the streets, sleeping in abandoned buildings, with friends or with strangers.
- In the United States, nearly 20% of high school students report being bullied on school property. Typically, those who are bullied have an increased likelihood for poor academic performance, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, sadness and substance abuse.
- According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens who are 15 to 24 years old. It is the sixth leading cause of death among children ages 5 to 14 years old.
- Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin at age 14.
- The average delay between a child or teen experiencing symptoms and receiving mental health help is 8-10 years.
- Approximately half of all students age 14 years or older with a mental illness drop out of school.
The facts above were provided by the National Institute for Mental Illness and other mental health organizations. These facts indicate that mental illness is in fact a reality for many teens, and that they need help to overcome symptoms and associated challenges.
If you are a caregiver or parent, here are four supportive steps to take that may help to prevent or find treatment for a teen or child with mental illness:
- Talk with your child’s pediatrician.
- Get a referral from the pediatrician to see a mental health professional. If you do not have insurance or pay out of pocket for services, call a therapist or psychologist directly. You may need to ask if a therapist or psychiatrist works with children.
- Request additional services at your child’s school. You can do this in writing via email or by making a phone call to the school administration.
- Talk to other families and friends who may be aware of the challenges that come with raising a child with mental illness. Ask for their tips and suggestions.
This article provided a list of facts on teen mental illness as well as some suggestions for getting your teen the right professional support.