According a recent national survey provided partially by the National Institute of Mental Health, only half of children and adolescence in America who suffer from mental illness actually receive professional help or treatment. The survey that was conducted also was able to shed light upon the prevalence of the most common of mental disorders.
The survey was actually a collaboration between the National Institute of Mental Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center of Health Statistics and was part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The survey involved 3,042 and the children and adolescents involved ranged from 8 years old to 15 years old.
Director of NIMH, Thomas Insel states that due to the fact that most data involving the prevalence of mental disorders among the American youth has been extremely varied, it has been difficult for professionals in the field of Psychology to truly pinpoint how many children and adolescents are affected. However, the data from this new NHANES survey provides professionals with an essential starting point for following trends among mental disorders and our youth.
The youth involved in this survey were each directly interviewed. In addition, parents or guardians of the children provided information about their child’s mental state. The researchers were tracking six specific mental disorders which were: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, panic disorder, depression, and conduct disorder. The participants of this survey also were asked if they were receiving treatment and if so, what type of treatment.
The results showed that 13% of participants met the criteria for having symptoms of at least one mental disorder out of the six mentioned above within the last 12 months. Approximately 1.8 percent of participants seemed to have more than one disorder, usually being a combination of conduct disorder and ADHD. In terms of the rates for each disorder, it was found that 8.6 percent suffered from ADHD, males suffering at a higher rate than females, 3.7 percent had depression, females suffering more than males, 2.1 percent were experiencing conduct disorder, 0.7 percent was suffering from anxiety disorder including both GAD and panic disorder, and 0.1 percent had an eating disorder.
With ADHD being the exception, the rates of prevalence for these mental disorders actually appear to be lower than those previously reported in other studies but were similar in comparison to studies that used the same or similar methods of collecting information.
The study also showed that the children of low-income families were more likely to report having a disorder, specifically ADHD, and those of wealthier families seemed to suffer more from anxiety disorder. There were not many differences in terms of ethnicity with the exception of the fact that Mexican-Americans had noticeably higher rates of mood disorders than other ethnicities.
Researchers discovered that about 55% of those with a mental disorder were consulting with a professional for help and treatment which confirms the trend that more children are being treated for disorders, ADHD especially. However, the survey also showed that only 32% of those with anxiety disorder were seeking treatment. In terms of ethnicity, it seems as though whites are far more likely to seek help and treatment than African-Americans and Mexican-Americans, showing more need to help and encourage minorities to seek professional help. Overall, this survey was able to help confirm information in terms of trends for mental health and our youth. This information will create a new baseline for making better decisions about mental healthcare for American children and adolescents.
NIMH. December 2009. National Survey Tracks Rates of Common Mental Disorders Among American Youth. www.nimh.nih.gov