As many as one in five individuals in the U.S. under the age of 18 experience a mental health disorder each year, and that rate is climbing, according to a CDC report. The CDC report, which is the first comprehensive examination of the mental health of children, found that such illnesses cost about $247 billion annually in decreased productivity, juvenile justice, special education and treatment.
The CDC cites a pair of studies that found mental health disorders among adolescents are on the rise. For instance, one recent study found that hospital stays among children for mood disorders increased from 10 to 17 admissions per 100,000 individuals between 1997 and 2010. Another recent study found admissions from mental-health-substance-use disorders among children increased by 24% from 2007 to 2010.
The report also found that suicide among children was more prevalent in boys than in girls. According to the CDC, 35.5% of children who commit suicide were diagnosed with a mental health disorder when they died, while more than one in four children who died by suicide were being treated for a mental disorder at the time of their death, and 21% had made a previous suicide attempt (Washington Post, 5/19/13). Suicide was the second-leading cause of death among U.S. Children ages 12 to 17 in 2010 (Science Now, Los Angeles Times, 5/17/13).
The problem seems exacerbated by the fact that just 21% of children with mental disorders receive treatment because of a shortage of pediatric sub-specialists and psychiatrists. According to the Washington Post, the shortage has been caused by more children’s mental health providers retiring from the workforce and fewer medical students taking their place.