Go to a busy street in your community and count the next 25 adolescents who walk, bike, skateboard, stroll or saunter past. Odds are that two of those 25 kids (8.3% to be exact) would own up to having experienced 14 or more days in the last month that he or she considered "mentally unhealthy," according to a comprehensive report on the
Between 2005 and 2010, roughly 2 million American adolescents between 12 and 17 acknowledged that for more than half of the previous month, they routinely had felt sad, angry, disconnected, stressed out, unloved or possibly willing to hurt themselves -- or others. These struggling teens were slightly more likely to be girls than boys (10% vs. 6.7%) and were roughly twice as likely to be white non-Latino (9.6%) than to be Mexican American (4.9%). Some 6.6% of African Americans adolescents owned up to having 14 or more bad mental-health days in the last month -- a measure of what mental health experts call "persistent mental distress."
These distressed kids would be most likely to come from a household living above the federal poverty line -- but not by much (from a household of three, for instance, with income between $20,000 and $40,000 a year). But those living in poverty or even relative affluence were only a little less likely to report they experienced persistent mental distress.
It should come as no surprise, then, in light of these statistics, that in 2010, suicide was the second-leading cause of death among American children between the ages of 12 and 17.
The burden of
Most common among those childhood disturbances is
Some 4.7% of adolescents ages 12 to 17 acknowledged behavior in the last year that met the diagnostic requirement for illicit drug use disorder, and 4.2% for
The experts acknowledge that rising rates of childhood mental illness may reflect more widespread awareness of conditions such as attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (
But some researchers believe the rise in childhood mental illness may, in part, reflect changed "environmental factors" in childrens' lives -- not just industrial pollutants but changes in the social environments of their schools and families, in the technologies they use every day, in the foods they eat. The rise of