Why is mental illness in children often referred to as the “invisible epidemic”?

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, approximately 20% of children in the U.S. suffer from a diagnosable mental illness in a given year…. that equates to approximately 17 million children. 

Of those 17 million children, 5 million suffer from a SERIOUS mental illness; one that causes significant impairment in daily living.  Emotional, social, behavioral, or academic impairment to name a few.

When looking at school-aged children, it’s reported that approximately 1 out of 5 children show signs of a mental illness. A study conducted by the American Journal of Psychiatry, showed that approximately 80% of those children will NOT receive any form of treatment (i.e. counseling, medication, etc.)

These statistics are staggering.

The Silent Epidemic, an article posted in Parents & Kids Magazine in September 2013, provided the following statistics:

  • 1 out of 2 cases of mental illness begin before the 14 years of age.
  • 50% of children with a SERIOUS mental illness will drop out of High School.
  • 1 out of 2 incarcerated juveniles suffer from an undiagnosed mental illness.
  • Untreated children are twice as likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.
  • Suicide plans amongst youth increased from 2009 (10.9%) to 2011 (12.8%).
  • Costs associated with mental disorders in the U.S. are estimated at $247B annually.

If this isn’t enough to convince you of the importance, I’m not sure what else will do the trick.  The overall impact and negative consequences associated with undiagnosed mental illness in children is enough to convince me of the importance of EDUCATION, CONVERSATION, and ADVOCACY! 


So, why aren’t more children getting help??

In my opinion, lots of reason!  

Lack of Knowledge.  Lack of Education.  Lack of Staff.  Lack of Resources.  Lack of Time.

Recognizing, Diagnosing, and, ultimately, Treating mental illness in children is often a collaborative approach.  Someone, whether it be a parent or teacher, has to recognize the red flags and warning signs.  Then, the child must be referred to a specialist who will evaluate and potentially diagnose the child with a mental illness which will, in turn, result in some form of treatment…. HOPEFULLY!

Unfortunately, all too often, there are MANY holes in this process.  Whether it be an unfamiliarity of signs and symptoms of mental illness in children OR a lack of resources in the community, the ball is being dropped and our children are the ones paying the price.

Parents and Teachers don’t always know what to look for… How would they?

Dr. Stephen Shore summed it up perfectly when he stated, If you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism.”

Even if you have experience with mental illness, which is a PLUS, symptoms are different, intensity is different, circumstances are different, and children are different; therefore, the same mental illness can look very different amongst different people. 

As I mentioned in my first post, Opening the Doors to Monarch Professional Counseling, my blog is solely intended to educate and empower those individuals who have direct contact with children. My goal is to start conversation and bring awareness to mental illness with hopes of slowly picking away at the associated stigma.

Whether you’re the unknowing parent or the under-trained teacher, the upcoming posts are for you!

This is Part 1 of a 3 part series in which I’ll provide information on the topic of mental illness in children.  The topics are outlined below:

  1. Mental Illness in Children: Part 1 – Is it Really an Invisible Epidemic?
  2. Mental Illness in Children: Part 2 – What Does IT Look Like?
  3. Mental Illness in Children: Part 3 – How to get Help for My Child?

In the upcoming posts, I’ll touch on some of the common types of mental illness in children, such Anxiety disorders, Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) to name a few.  Not only will I explain the illness but I’ll provide you with warning signs and red flags for each.

Please remember that the next posts are not intended to DIAGNOSE a child.  In no way will I be saying that ALL hyperactive and impulsive children ARE ADHD.  Many different factors play a role in evaluating and diagnosing mental illness.

The posts WILL, however, provide information vital to early identification and intervention of mental illness.  Common warning signs, red flags, and tendencies of children struggling with certain mental illnesses will be discussed.  

I only hope that the upcoming posts will empower YOU to continue educating yourself as well as others on the topic of mental illness in children.

Stay Tuned…





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