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CDC Announces One in Five Children Has a Mental Illness in the U.S.

Update Date: May 17, 2013 10:14 AM EDT

Mental health disorders have been a source of controversy with issues ranging from misdiagnoses to over prescribing medications. Over the past years, the conversation surrounding mental illnesses within the United States has attempted to break down the stigmas and stereotypes revolving these conditions. With more parents and doctors willing to solve children's problems via diagnoses, the risk of prescription drug abuse has also consequently risen. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a new report stated that one in every five children could qualify for a mental health disorder diagnosis.

The new federal report announced that one in five children under the age of 17-years-old could have a mental disorder. The researchers concluded this alarmingly high rate based off of a study that focused on six areas. These areas included attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), behavioral disorders, mood and anxiety disorders, autism spectrum disorders, substance abuse, and Tourette syndrome. Based from these diagnoses, the researchers concluded that the most common one in children between three and 17 is ADHD, with one in 15 children from the sample group having this diagnosis.

The report outlined the other disorders with 3.5 percent with behavioral or conduct issues, three percent with anxiety disorders, two percent with depression and one percent with an autism spectrum disorder. Tourette syndrome was the least common with only two out of 1,000 kids from six to 17 diagnosed. This report also looked at teenagers specifically and found that five percent of them abused illegal drugs, four percent misused alcohol and three percent were daily cigarette smokers.

"Boys are more likely than girls to have most of the disorders overall," the team leader for child development studies at the CDC, Ruth Perou, said. "On the other hand, girls are more likely to have depression or an alcohol-use disorder."

This report reveals an increasing rate of mental illnesses, which could be due to a lot of factors. One reason, the most direct reason, would be that children are developing more mental illnesses than ever before. Another reason could place blame on the fact that mental illness diagnoses today are a lot easier than before, leading to more children being diagnosed who might not need to be. One more reason could be that since the stigma behind mental illness is not as negative as before, more parents are willing to get their children treated. The report could not pinpoint exactly why diagnoses are up, but the researchers sated that regardless of the reasons, treatment for mental illnesses have improved and thus, children who are diagnosed early could be treated effectively.

The report was printed in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

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