Early treatment for children with mental problems can help prevent trouble at home and at school, and with alcohol, drugs, and violence. But a study published in the journal Pediatrics reveals that half of U.S. children with mental problems don't get help.
For the first time ever, researchers used national data to estimate rates of six mental health problems in children. The problems were diagnosed using American Psychiatric Association standards. The mental health disorders included:
The data came from a survey on health and nutrition that more than 3,000 families from across the U.S. took part in from 2001 to 2004. All families had children ages 8 to 15 years. The children were interviewed, and parents and caregivers also provided information on the children's mental health.
They were also asked if the children had seen a health professional in the past year for any mental health issues.
Thirteen percent of the children surveyed met criteria for at least one of the disorders. About 2 percent met criteria for two or more disorders, usually ADHD and conduct disorder.
Specific rates for the disorders were:
Of the children with mental disorders, only 51 percent had seen a health professional in the past year because of the disorder. Children with ADHD and conduct disorder were more likely to have gotten help than those with anxiety disorders. This may be because the symptoms of ADHD and conduct disorder are easier to spot than those of internalizing disorders, such as anxiety and depression.
Mental health problems in kids can be hard to identify. Many stresses in day-to-day life can cause behavior changes in your child. But some behaviors warrant your attention. Talk with your child's doctor if your child displays the following behaviors:
If you're worried about your child's mental health, talk with your child's doctor right away. You can also talk with your child's teacher to find out if the worrisome behavior has been occurring at school. As in adults, treatment for children with mental health problems includes talk therapy and medication. Don't wait to seek help. Untreated mental health problems can lead to a host of other problems, including school failure and drug abuse.
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Playtime is more than just fun and games. Studies show that parents need to take children's play seriously. Results from several studies point out the importance of playtime. These studies conclude that the right kind of play is critical to children's mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
Best for kids? Play that is active, unstructured, and outdoors. This type of play helps them develop social skills, meet problems with creative solutions, and learn that being active makes them feel better and happier.
Parents can encourage healthy play by ensuring that kids have a safe place to romp around outdoors. Look for playgrounds that offer: