Today is “take action” day for Mental Health. Mental illness affects the lives of at least 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 10 children across the US. When it comes to teenagers, that motley crew of in betweeners, 1 in 5 have a mental health challenge. Consider that there are 25 million teens; 20% nets out to 5 million teens struggling with depression, anxiety, ADHD, conduct disorders, eating disorders, substance use, and other afflictions that often take hold during these sensitive years.
In our research at BodiMojo, the stats seem to keep piling up that speak to the unmet need of the mental health challenges among teens. One of the most striking indicators of the scope of the problem is the sheer economic toll on children and teens, estimated at $250 billion a year.
Furthermore, since mental health is often hidden from view, stigmatized, and untreated, it is one condition in which the indirect costs (the burden on families, schools, communities and the juvenile system) outweigh the direct costs (visits to a doctor or counselor and medications).
We’ve spent a lot of time in recent months mapping the health challenges among teenagers, trying to put numbers against the top issues they face today. We gathered the most recent information we could find and created an infographic: Teen Health In Numbers. Let us know what you think.
If you think about it, these are preventable. These tragedies are largely behavioral in nature, the result of underage drinking, undiagnosed or untreated depression or anxiety, and environmental conditions and poverty. To be sure, mental health challenges are also influenced by genetics, circumstances, and relationships. As a parent of two teenagers, I know that the friends one keeps can bring you up or bring you down. How kids handle the stressors is highly individual, but resiliency skills, a healthy lifestyle, and social support really help.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has taken up the issue of adolescent health on a global scale. The top two conditions among the world’s adolescents (defined between ages of 10 and 24) are depression and HIV infection. In a remarkable Adolescent Health series by the Lancet in 2012, a major headliner was actually nothing new, but the fact that the experts raised a call to action is significant. So what did they report? Adolescence constitutes a unique phase in human development, and as such, treating teens requires specialized and tailored healthcare. The researchers noted that while childhood mortality has greatly improved with the introduction of modern medicine, like vaccines and antibiotics, little improvement has been seen in adolescent health. And yet we know so much more about teen brain development with the introduction of brain scan research. This is the phase when an awesome amount of rewiring is taking place, laying the neural foundation that will carry on through life – emotionally, cognitively and behaviorally. It’s stunning if you consider that these emerging adults – our future leaders, innovators, teachers and parents – get short changed in healthcare.
The WHO also has a cool interactive tool called the Second Decade: “Health for the World’s Adolescents: A second chance in the second decade.” It highlights the issues confronting adolescents around the globe who struggle with a variety of challenges and needs.
Here in the US we have some of the best healthcare in the world. Yet, a recent report highlights that even though as many as 25% of kids seen by doctors have a chronic mental health condition, only 1 in 5 receive treatment for it. These issues are complex, no doubt, but this means we need to close the gaps in prevention, diagnosis, access to care, and resources tailored to adolescents. We find this a major call to action. Our mission is to engage adolescents with chronic health conditions better navigate self-care through the digital tools they use everyday. We are doing our part as best as we know how with the BodiMojo app. What about you?
Are you in or what?
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NAMI: The National Alliance on Mental Illness Tweet today: #ACT4mentalhealth
- Brown, N.M., Green, J.C., Desai, M.M., Weitzman, C.C., Rosenthal, M.S. (2014). Need and unmet need for care coordination among children mental health conditions. Pediatrics, 133, e530.
- Fact Sheet on Behavioral Health Conditions (2012)
Photo Credit: © Piter77 | Dreamstime.com – Urban Teenager Photo