More Adam Lanzas? Coming Right Up!

A chilling new statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Almost 20 percent of children in this country have some form of mental illness.

According to a story in today's Washington Post, between 7 and 12 million children experience a "mental disorder" every year.  That's one in five kids.

And the rate is increasing, Tony Pugh reports.  Now, of course, we're not talking about all psychopaths, but children with disorders who find it hard to learn, behave and cope with their emotions.  The CDC puts that at  13 to 20% of all youths under 18.

Even scarier, only 21% get treatment.  Would therapy have helped Adam Lanza?  No one will ever know.   And it's not because parents don't take their kids for help, it's that the help isn't there.  Pugh notes that a  shortage of sub-specialty pediatricians and child and adolescent psychiatrists contributes to the problem.

Worse yet, fewer medical students are choosing specialties in pediatric mental health and the folks that do treat children with mental health issues are slowly aging out of the loop.

It also matters where you live.  Children in under-served rural and urban areas are most likely not to get the care they need.  “Children with serious medical conditions should not have where they live determine what kind of health care services they receive,” Pugh quotes Thomas K. McInerny, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Children are being admitted to hospitals more often, too.  One study found that mood disorders for children almost doubled -- from 10 to 17 admissions per 10,000 people from 1997 to 2010, according to Pugh.  Another study found a 24% increase in hospital admissions for children suffering from mental health problems.

Sadly, 30% of children made their intentions known before committing suicide.  More boys kill themselves than girls, and more non-Hispanics and whites.  Boys usually do it more violently, using guns or other weapons. One out of four suicide victims was being treated when he died and about 21% had made a previous attempt, Pugh notes.

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is one of the most common mental disorders found in children, with 7% of children in this country -- or 4.2 million -- diagnosed with it.  About 2.2 million children in that group also have behavioral problems while nearly 3%, or 2 million, have anxiety issues, according to Pugh.

An additional 3%, or 1.2 million children, suffer from depression. And about 40% of all these children have more than one mental disorder.

Clearly, something must be done if we don't want more children or young adults shooting up classrooms and theaters and fast food outlets over and over again.  We're letting our kids down if we can't find more ways to help them in their distress.  These kids didn't create their own problems, nor, most likely, their parents, either, but it's up to us to do something -- volunteer in your community with at-risk kids; if you see a child having a problem, offer support; do just about anything you can -- before the next Adam Lanza strikes.


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