Childhood Mental Disorders

Article excerpt

Childhood Mental Disorders

The outlook for treating and even preventing childhood mental disorders is hopeful, according to a recent report from the Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

The report expresses "excitement about the demonstrable progress" occurring in many areas of child mental health research. "Better tools for identifying vulnerability to disorders should lead to even more advances in prevention, and better methods of assessment will guide efforts to improve the treatment of children who are already burdened," the report predicts.

At least 12% of children under the age of 18 in the United States -- a total of some 7.5 million -- suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. These disorders include emotional disturbances, such as depression or severe anxiety; behavioral problems manifested by disruptive or antisocial acts; and developmental disorders that interfere with a child's ability to think, communicate, or otherwise function effectively. Only about 2.5 million of the children with mental disorders are receiving any kind of treatment.

"There is increasing reason for optimism that many of the major childhood mental disorders are responsive to treatment," according to the report. Such interventions include counseling for the child, parents, entire family, and groups of children and adolescents; drug therapies; and preventive programs that may help avert future difficulties. …