When feeling stressed out by the hectic pace of modern life, it’s easy to get wistful for the carefree days of youth—when it seemed the only thing we had to worry about was getting along with the other kids in the neighborhood.
But according to a first-of-its-kind report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on childhood mental health, those days are gone or may never even have existed for a huge portion of America’s children.
Analyzing data collected over the past six years, the report shows that millions of kids—as many as one in five—are currently living with some form of mental health disorder. Attention deficit disorder is the most prevalent condition reported, affecting more than 4 million kids nationwide, but other behavioral issues such as anxiety and depression also were heavily documented, affecting 2.2 and 1.8 million children respectively.
While it’s unclear whether or not the numbers in the report mean that these conditions are really more common in kids today, or if parents, clinicians and teachers are just getting better at identifying them, the bottom line is clear: the issue of mental health disorders in American children is too big to ignore. …
Last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a policy statement calling on pediatricians nationwide to be knowledgeable about teenage drinking, preventative measures to stop it and treatment options for adolescent substance abuse. The statement included information on how alcohol can interfere with the developing teenage brain, and the strong correlation between early alcohol consumption and alcoholism later in life.
John Knight, MD, director at the Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research (CeASAR) at Children’s Hospital Boston, says both parents and pediatricians should do more to combat adolescent alcohol use— especially in the coming months as the weather gets warmer and the prom/graduation season starts for many of the country’s teenagers.
“We have data that suggest if doctors spend if one or two minutes discussing the negative effects of alcohol with their adolescent patients, there is a dramatic decrease in the number of kids who start drinking. You can reduce the prevalence of drinking from 40 percent to 20 percent,” he says.
“But parents have a lot of influence over their children too, even if they think they don’t, and therefore they need to set a model of behavior, especially with younger kids.” …