On May 9th the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services will bring recognition to a much deserved cause as they launch the National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day. This day is important because it brings light to the importance of children's mental health and promotes how positive mental health is essential to a child's healthy development.

Mental illness is a real issue facing many of today's youth. In the U.S. alone, approximately 5 million children have some type of serious mental illness. Unfortunately, only 20% of those affected youth are identified and receive the mental health services they need. The sad truth is with one in five children with a mental health disorder, only a third get the attention they need. These mental health problems have a direct adverse impact on the child's life by interfering with his/her normal development, impairing learning and interfering with daily life activities.

Just how prevalent are childhood mental health disorders in the U.S.?

  • Approximately 5 percent of children and up to 8 percent of adolescents in the US suffer from depression.
  • Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health problems that occur in children and teens.
  • Attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children and adolescents. Studies report that it affects about 4.1 percent of youth age 9 to 17.
  • · Approximately 46% of adolescents age 13 to 18 have had some form of mental health problem and 21% of teens age 13-18 have a serious disorder.

Top Mental Health Disorders Facing Today's Youth

According to the National Institutes of Health the top mental health disorders plaguing today's children ages 8-15 are:

Know the Signs

While mental health disorders are masked by many different symptoms, the following are signs that may indicate a mental health condition:

  • Behavioral changes (i.e., withdrawn or outbursts of anger)
  • Increasingly anxious/nervous energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Decline in school performance
  • Change in appearance/poor hygiene
  • Sudden change in appetite
  • Self -harm
  • Hyperactivity
  • Hearing voices or seeing things
  • Frequent nightmares or night terrors
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Excessive Physical Complaints
  • Extreme Defiance/Rebellion
  • Overly obsessed with things
  • Compulsiveness
  • Substance abuse
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Mood swings

Many children exhibit these signs, however with a mental condition the symptoms will appear severe, overly exaggerated, excessive and/or extreme. If something doesn't seem right or is off with your child, don't wait to have him/her evaluated. Early identification is important and can make a difference in your child's life as well as yours.


The key to helping today's children affected with a mental disorder is early identification, treatment, and funding. Unfortunately, according to a new study, researchers found that children’s mental health programs are not receiving adequate and consistent funding mostly because those services are considered to be a low priority by policymakers. Physicians and mental health care providers need to increase awareness on the issue and help reduce the stigma that surrounds mental illness in this country. So, on May 9th, I urge you to take a stance and help promote and increase awareness for children's mental health, most importantly for the future of our children and for the future of America.


National Institute of Mental Health Disorders http://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml

National Institutes of Health http://nih.gov/

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