A new National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) funded study, the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R), was released late on June 6th, 2005. The NIMH release that describes the study -- titled "Mental Illness Exacts Heavy Toll, Beginning in Youth" -- highlighted the following findings from the study related to children and adolescents:
* Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14 and three quarters have begun by age 24;
* Anxiety disorders often begin in late childhood, mood disorders in late adolescence and substance abuse in the early 20s;
* Unlike heart disease or most cancers, young people with mental disorders suffer disability when they are in the prime of life and normally most productive;
* Despite effective treatments, there are long delays -- sometimes decades -- between the first onset of symptoms and individuals seeking and receiving treatment;
* The study reveals that an untreated mental disorder can lead to a more severe, more difficult to treat illness, and to the development of co-occurring mental illnesses;
* The study showed that the earlier in life a mental disorder begins, the slower a person is to seek treatment and the more persistent the illness becomes;
Dr. Tom Insel, the Director of NIMH, stated the following "There are many important messages from this study, but perhaps none as important as the recognition that mental disorders are the chronic disorders of young people in the U.S."
The study, conducted by Dr. Ron Kessler and colleagues at Harvard University, is described in the June 6th issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry. You can order a copy of the series of articles by visiting the Archives web site at http://archpsyc.ama-assn.org/
You can read more about the study on the NIMH web site at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/press/mentalhealthstats.cfm
Clearly this study makes a strong case for the critical need for early identification of mental disorders in children and adolescents and early intervention to avoid years of unnecessary suffering and the risk of illnesses becoming much more severe and treatment resistent. This is especially true in a time when we have effective treatments for most early onset mental illnesses. This information is also helpful to counter anti-children's MH campaigns and anti-mental health screening attacks.
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