Is there something in the water? Seriously. What’s going on? Over the last decade, there’s been a drastic increase in mental health issues facing children.
Autism and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) have risen 16% since 2003.
Mental Health America says that 1 in 5 kids has a diagnosable mental health problem, but only 1 in 3 gets any help and attention for it.
One In Eighty Eight
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that 1 in 88 kids born in the United States is diagnosed with autism (making it the fastest growing developmental disability diagnosis in the U.S.).
What does this mean for the next generations in our country and around the world? Not only are autism and ADHD interfering with a child’s development, these kids are impaired in school, in social situations, and all the while adding worry for their parents. Will my autistic daughter ever get a shot at a “normal” life? Will my ADHD diagnosed son be able to earn a high school diploma?
Why The Increase
How is this happening? What has changed from 10, 20, and 30 years ago when rates were much lower? Were there fewer children, or did we start making lifestyle changes that has led our children to be developmentally challenged?
Some experts think that a large variable is access to health care, more for autism than ADHD. Others believe it to be a misdiagnosis, more for ADHD than autism.
Thousands Of Kids
There are definitely thousands of kids running around taking Ritalin or Adderall who do not really have ADHD, or ADD. Either that or a diagnosis that was appropriate at one age is no longer applicable, but the child is still on medication.
What seems of more concern is what happens to the children who are facing mental illness as they become adults? As these children grow up, they become members of our society. Without receiving proper treatment, these now adults with mental health issues have great difficulty with the norms of our society.
Inability To Concentrate
An inability to concentrate as a kid creates a grown-up with ADHD. What mainstream jobs, that can support even just one person, will actually accommodate to someone with ADHD? Will he or she be able to focus and hold down a job that our country pretty much dictates we all have?
What about the autistic daughter who grows up into an adult in this world? Can she find a way to thrive in her community? If not, what do these people do to survive? How does someone with autism or ADHD cope in a world where they are “different”?
That is a tough life. Is there a link between the drastic increase in mental health issues facing children, and the later diagnosis of more commonly thought of mental illnesses, like depression and anxiety? Many people studying this very subject say yes, but diagnosis is challenging.
An autistic woman may not be able to express what she is feeling in a way that leads to a formal diagnosis of depression, such as, and with many overlapping symptoms, a physician, psychologist, or psychiatrist may not feel comfortable with putting another label on that individual.
The same can be true for the boy with ADHD who is now a seemingly anxious adult. Does he really have clinical anxiety, or have his symptoms of ADHD changed as he grew up? Will taking him off Adderall and putting him on Xanax (an anti-anxiety medication) do anything productive for him?
Research is needed to figure out why there has been a drastic increase in mental health issues facing children, what can be done to change that trend, and what repercussions an early diagnosis has on the life of an adult.
Treatment can evolve to help the growing number of children who are going to need it!
Jared Friedman is Quality Improvement Manager at Sovereign Health Group a leading dual diagnosis facility with locations in Orange County & Los Angeles, learn more at their website http://www.sovcal.com. Connect with Sovereign On Google+.