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Home > Research Articles > Millions of Children Have Mental Health Problems; Most Get No Help

The National Mental Health Association

Sunday, May 12, 2002

Childhood Depression Awareness Day Millions of Children Have Mental Health Problems; Most Get No Help ALEXANDRIA, Va. (May 7, 2002) On May 7, and throughout the month of May, thousands of children, families, physicians and advocates are working in communities around the nation to get the word out: Childhood depression is real, common and treatable. According to a report by the U.S. Surgeon General, one in eight teenagers and one in 33 younger children may be clinically depressed on any given day. But less than one-third of children and teens with depression receive any treatment, which could include psychotherapy and medication. Consequences of untreated depression can include social isolation, difficulties at home and school, and an increased risk of suicide. “Depression in children and teens can be very painful,” says Michael Faenza, president and CEO of NMHA. “Because the symptoms of depression look different in youth than in adults, they are often overlooked. Recognizing the warning signs is the first step to improving and even saving young lives.” Warning signs of depression in a child or adolescent include: Sad, hopeless or irritable feelings Falling behind in school or earning lower grades Losing interest in friends or activities usually enjoyed Avoiding people; wanting to be alone all of the time Talking about suicide or death Hurting other people or animals; damaging property Major changes in eating or sleeping habits In addition to depression, children may cope with a variety of mental illnesses, including anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, conduct disorder and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Most get no help. The mother of a child with depression established childhood Depression Awareness Day in 1997, and NMHA took the program nationwide. The National Mental Health Association is the country's oldest and largest nonprofit organization addressing all aspects of mental health and mental illness. With more than 340 affiliates nationwide, NMHA works to improve the mental health of all Americans through advocacy, education, research and service.