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Report Urges Broader Effort to Stem Emotional Disorders in Youth

Mental health tab costs U.S. about $247 billion a year, experts say

FRIDAY, Feb. 13, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Mental, emotional and behavioral problems in young Americans cost the nation about $247 billion a year, says a report that urges the federal government to make preventing these disorders and promoting mental health in young people a priority.

Problems such as depression, anxiety, conduct disorders and substance abuse are about as common among children and adolescents as limb fractures, according to the report released Friday by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. In any given year, it notes, about 14 to 20 percent of young people in the United States have a mental, emotional or behavioral disorder.

A number of programs have been proven effective at preventing these problems and promoting mental health, but the report urges that the programs be made more widely available. It calls on the White House to create a body to coordinate agency initiatives in this area, establish public goals for prevention and provide needed research and funding.

"There is a substantial gap between what is known about preventing mental, emotional and behavioral disorders and what is actually being done," Kenneth E. Warner, dean of the University of Michigan School of Public Health and chairman of the committee that wrote the report, said in a National Research Council news release.

"It is no longer accurate to argue that these disorders can never be prevented," Warner said. "Many can. The nation is well-positioned to equip young people with the skills and habits needed to live healthy, happy and productive lives in caring relationships. But we need to develop the systems to deliver effective prevention programs to a far wider group of children and adolescents."

Warner and his fellow authors noted that most mental, emotional and behavioral disorders in adults have their roots in childhood and adolescence. More than half of adults who've had such disorders report that they started in childhood or early adolescence, they said.

Initial symptoms often occur two to four years before the onset of a full-blown disorder. It's during this early stage that preventive programs can help, the report said.

More information

The U.S. Center for Mental Health Services has more about child and adolescent mental health.

SOURCE: National Research Council, news release, Feb. 13, 2009
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