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Children's Mental Health Disorders Cost US $247 Billion a Year

Mental Health

A new report from the National Research Council says that childhood depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other mental and emotional disorders are as common as broken bones in children, take a huge toll on kids and their families, and end up costing the US about $247 billion annually. According to the authors, the federal government should make preventing mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders and promoting mental health in young people a national priority.


“There is a substantial gap between what is known about preventing mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders and what is actually being done. It is no longer accurate to argue that these disorders can never be prevented.  Many can.  The nation is well-positioned to equip young people with the skills and habits needed to live healthy, happy, and productive lives in caring relationships.  But we need to develop the systems to deliver effective prevention programs to a far wider group of children and adolescents.” – Kenneth E. Warner, committee chair and dean of the University of Michigan School of Public Health

There is currently no federal entity to lead these efforts, and the White House should create one that can and will coordinate national initiatives, set goals for prevention, and provide the research and funding to achieve those goals, said the committee.

An estimated 14 to 20% of children have some mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder, and over half of adults who have experienced them state that the disorder began in either childhood or adolescence. This is a clear example of the need to take the initiative for our children’s health and make it a national priority through education and funding for programs that make a difference.

The report recommends that the White House lead the effort with a broad implementation of prevention approaches and research on interventions rather than just treatment.

“The new leadership body should set public goals for preventing specific disorders and promoting mental health and provide the funding to achieve them.  The departments of Education, Justice, and Health and Human Services should align their resources and programs with this strategy.  These agencies should also fund state, county, and community efforts to implement and improve evidence-based programs.”

The committee also recommended that the National Institutes of Health should develop a 10-year plan to research ways to promote mental health and prevent mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders in young people.

The report was sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The full report “Preventing Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People: Progress and Possibilities” is available to read online for free.

Image: Gaetan Lee at Flickr under Creative Commons License


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