Mental Illness in children has recently become an increasing concern amongst parents as reports show that the number of children dealing with the illness has increased significantly. Children, just like adults, are experiencing a wide range of mental health conditions that affect their emotional and behavioral well-being.
These issues can manifest in different ways, from anxiety and depression to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism disorders, and more. Understanding the nature of these conditions, their potential origins, and how they affect children is crucial for parents, caregivers, educators, and society at large so that they may be able to provide the appropriate support children may require.
Children’s mental health is a global concern that knows no borders. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that approximately 10-20% of children and adolescents worldwide grapple with mental health disorders.
What contributes to the prevalence of mental health issues in children?
Experts say it is related to inadequate access to necessary treatment. There aren’t enough people who specialize in helping young people with mental health issues. This affects the mental health system as a whole and makes it hard for many children facing mental health disorders, such as anxiety, to find the right kind of help.
As children and adolescents grow older, the prevalence of mental health conditions increases. Children will likely receive mental health care through treatment, medication, or counseling once they get older.
Yet another obstacle that gets in the way of kids getting help is the stigma surrounding mental health issues. There are different perspectives on mental health within different cultures and communities.
But According to recent studies, there are several other factors too:
Social and Economic Factors: Poverty, inequality, and social exclusion can increase the risk of mental health issues in children. Limited access to education, healthcare, and social support can further exacerbate these challenges.
Family Dynamics: Family plays a pivotal role in a child’s mental health. Adverse childhood experiences, such as abuse, neglect, or parental substance abuse, can have lasting effects on a child’s psychological well-being.
Education Pressure: Academic pressures, unrealistic expectations, and school bullying can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression in children. It can also lead to psychological and emotional challenges, such as low self-esteem and even suicidal thoughts. Preventing bullying is crucial in safeguarding the mental health of children.
Digital Influence: The proliferation of digital devices and social media exposes children to cyberbullying, excessive screen time, and a constant need for validation, impacting their mental health. Social media and their altered images and often unrealistic portrayals of life can contribute to feelings of low self-esteem among young users.
Strategies such as setting time limits, promoting open communication, and educating children about the potential pitfalls of online interactions are some of the ways to mitigate the adverse effects of social media on their mental health.
What are the statistics on mental health in children?
Reports show that between 2016 and 2020, there was a notable increase in the diagnosis of anxiety and depression among children and adolescents aged 3-17 years. Data collected by the HHS Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) revealed a 29% rise in anxiety diagnoses and a 27% increase in depression diagnoses during this period.
In the year 2020, a report from the HHS Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlighted a distressing trend. Suicide emerged as the second leading cause of death for children aged 10-14, underscoring the dangers of the mental health challenges.
The data shows a troubling picture of the mental health of the younger generation, with particularly alarming findings among certain groups of students.
One example is the disproportionate hardships faced by female students. They encountered higher levels of violence, mental health issues, thoughts of suicide, and substance use than their male counterparts.
The percentage of female students subjected to forced sexual experiences increased for the first time in a decade, with 14% of female students reporting such incidents.
Female students were nearly twice as likely as their male peers to grapple with persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, and they were also almost twice as likely to have attempted suicide in the past year.
Based on key findings from the CDC, quote
- Children aged 12–17 years dealing with mental health issues, were more likely to have received any mental health treatment (including having taken prescription medication and received counseling or therapy from a mental health professional) in the past 12 months (18.9%) compared with children aged 5–11 years (11.3%).
- Boys were more likely than girls to have taken prescription medication for their mental health in the past 12 months (9.0% and 7.3%, respectively).
- As the level of urbanization decreased, the percentage of children who received any mental health treatment increased.
The sad news is that, according to research from the Child Mind Institute, half of children dealing with mental health issues do not receive any type of treatment and worse, they may end up having some type of ‘substance use disorder.’
The need for mental health awareness
An increase in investment is essential to enhance mental health awareness and combat the stigma against it. Also, to expand initiatives aimed at improving access to high-quality mental health care and effective treatments.
In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) initiated the Special Initiative for Mental Health (2019-2023): Universal Health Coverage for Mental Health. The main goal is to ensure that 100 million additional people in 12 priority countries gain access to affordable, top-notch care for mental health conditions, marking a significant stride towards global mental health equity.
Efforts to address the global mental health of children are crucial for their overall well-being and future success.
Here are other key strategies and initiatives being implemented:
Early Intervention: Recognizing the signs of mental health issues early on is essential. School counselors, parents, and healthcare professionals must be equipped to identify and support children in need.
Education and Awareness: Raising awareness about children’s mental health is essential to reduce stigma and promote understanding. Educational programs in schools and communities can help eliminate myths and provide support.
Access to Mental Health Services: Governments and organizations are working to improve access to mental health services for children. Telehealth options have become particularly important in providing remote support.
Parental Support: Parental involvement and support are critical. Providing parents with resources and guidance on fostering a positive mental health environment at home is important.
Promotion of Resilience: Building resilience in children can help them cope with life’s challenges. Schools and communities are implementing programs that focus on emotional intelligence, problem-solving, and coping skills.
Helping children express themselves
It’s important to know that children dont always express their emotions, making it challenging to recognize mental health issues. Parents, teachers, and healthcare professionals play a crucial role in identifying and addressing these issues.
Mental health conditions can have a substantial effect on all areas of life, such as school or work performance, relationships with family and friends, and the ability to participate in the community. Two of the most common mental health conditions, depression and anxiety, cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year.
Despite these figures, the worldwide average of government health expenditure that goes to mental health is less than 2%.
Early intervention and appropriate support can significantly improve a child’s mental health outcomes and future development. If you suspect that a child is experiencing mental health issues, it’s essential to seek help from a mental health professional who specializes in working with children and adolescents.