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Up to One in Five Children Has a Mental Disorder, CDC Says

About 20 percent of the children in the United States suffers from a mental health disorder, according to a new report by the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This is the first report to describe the number  of youths  aged 3–17 years who have specific mental disorders, including ADHD, disruptive behavioral disorders such as oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder, autism spectrum disorders, mood and anxiety disorders including depression, substance use disorders, and Tourette syndrome. The report also includes information on a few indicators of mental health, specifically, mentally unhealthy days and suicide.

The study cited data collected from 1994 to 2011 that showed the number of children with mental disorders is growing. It suggested improvements in diagnoses as one possible explanation for the increase.

“Millions of children in the U.S. have mental disorders that affect their overall health and present challenges for their loved ones,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said in a news release. “In addition, the financial costs of childhood mental disorders are at least an estimated $247 billion each year. We are working to both increase our understanding of these disorders, and help scale up programs and strategies to promote children’s mental health so that our children grow to lead productive, healthy lives.”

Boys were found more likely to have most of the listed disorders except for depression and alcohol abuse, which affect more girls.

Childhood mental disorders can be treated and managed. There are many evidence-based treatment options, so parents and doctors should work closely with everyone involved in the child’s treatment — teachers, coaches, therapists and other family members, the CDC said.  Early diagnosis and appropriate services for children and their families can make a difference in the lives of children with mental disorders.

“This is a deliberate effort by CDC to show mental health is a health issue. As with any health concern, the more attention we give to it, the better. It’s parents becoming aware of the facts and talking to a healthcare provider about how their child is learning, behaving, and playing with other kids,” Dr. Ruth Perou, the lead author of the study, told Reuters in an interview.

“What’s concerning is the number of families affected by these issues. But we can do something about this. Mental health problems are diagnosable, treatable and people can recover and lead full healthy lives,” Perou added.

There is still hope.

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