Mental Health Month – Be Aware & Stigmafree for Kids Too

Last updated on May 26th, 2016 at 10:09 am

Mental-health-month-for-kids-tooMay is Mental Health Awareness Month.

Why talk about this on Pediatric Safety? Because mental health IS an important issue for kids. Data from the National Alliance for Mental Health (NAMI) shows that 90% of people who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness….and suicide is the SECOND LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN YOUTH aged 15 to 24 (NAMI’s website has some great infographics with key facts on mental health in children and adults – click here).

In addition, a study which looked at the most common reasons for pediatric visits (up to 18 years old) to Emergency Departments showed that mental and behavioral health conditions ranked #7higher than musculoskeletal issues like broken bones and sprains!

Furthermore, a study by the University of California, San Francisco – reported in this USNews article – found that “nearly 1 in 10 hospitalized children have a primary diagnosis of a mental health problem.” In addition to the fact that mental health hospitalizations are actually quite common, this study showed that hospital stays for mental health reasons increased by 24% from 2007 to 2010 (most recent data that was available for analysis).

Source: NAMI (www.nami.org)

Source: NAMI (www.nami.org)

Why are mental health issues becoming so common for kids? There are probably many reasons. Increased pressure to achieve – at earlier and earlier ages – in both school and extracurricular activities is certainly playing a large part. Overscheduling of kids, so they can’t just be kids anymore, can also contribute. The everywhere, all-the-time nature of social media today is another likely culprit – driving both the pressure to live up to others’ ideals of a worthy life and the anguish of online bullying. Stressed and overworked parents can also be an element, since parental mental health definitely impacts kids – (check out the NAMI infographic for adults). And, finally, we may also be better at identifying and diagnosing issues in kids – though often not with minority children.

Even if mental health is more recognized today than in past generations – the National Alliance for Mental Health is highlighting the issue of stigma in mental illness this month – which often prevents people from opening up and getting help for their condition. NAMI asks that we be Stigmafree by:

  • Educating ourselves and others on mental health
  • Seeing the person and not the illness….and
  • Taking action on mental health issues – through donation or advocacy

Finally, you can also take the Stigmafree pledge on the NAMI website. I’ve taken the pledge – because I’ve suffered from mental illness before – having had depression both as a teen and in adulthood. But I’ve gotten treatment and it hasn’t limited me OR defined me.

We need to know that these issues are common, they are ILLNESSES and that there can also be a genetic component. A susceptibility or predisposition for depression and other mental health conditions can be passed down through families. My father had depression for a lot of his adult life – which was tied up with chronic health conditions he had – so I may have a genetic component to my issues. And my son might also have a genetic tendency.

If you have any family history of mental health issues, don’t discount the idea of your kids or other young relatives suffering from these conditions.  The NAMI infographic for children and teens includes a section on warning signs for mental health concerns in youth, which are good to know. These are also included below:

Source: NAMI (www.nami.org)

Source: NAMI (www.nami.org)

About the Author

Audra is an experienced pharmaceutical marketing professional, aspiring writer, and mother of Elliott, a high-spirited fourteen-year old boy. Frequently tired but never bored, she has a strong interest in public health fostered by numerous years implementing global diabetes education programs as well as by her fourteen-year crazy (wild? amazing?) adventure in parenting. She recently earned a Masters in Public Health to augment her expertise in health policy and health promotion. Audra is a member of the PedSafe Team

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