Report: 20 percent of American kids have mental health problems - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

FOX Medical Team

Report: 20 percent of American kids have mental health problems

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ATLANTA -

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows millions of American kids suffer from mental health problems. Experts believe as many as 20 percent of American children are affected.

The CDC report shows many kids are struggling with disorders a lot of us think of as adult problems.

That's something Grady's chief psychologist Dr. Nadine Kaslow sees every day, and something she says that parents need to understand: that mental illness in children is real.

"It's not just that your kid is being lazy, or they're being oppositional, or difficult, or they should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps," Kaslow said.

The CDC report found one in five children between the ages of 3 and 17 may have a mental health disorder. Most prevalent are ADHD and autism spectrum disorders.

Kaslow also works with children with "externalizing problems," meaning they act out.
   
"They have attention problems, they have tantrums, they steal, they cheat, they lie, they hit other kids, they bully," Kaslow said.

Just as troubling for parents are the inwardly-focused problems like depression, anxiety, even thoughts of suicide. And the longer kids go without treatment, the worse they do.   

Kaslow says start by sitting down with your child and talking about what's going on.

"And if it seems like your child's symptoms are really causing them distress, making it hard for them to do well at school, making it challenging for them to do well socially, then they may need professional help," Kaslow.

That brings up another challenge for families.

"A lot of how you get professional help, unfortunately, depends on what resources you have. If you have insurance or if you don't have insurance.  What kind of insurance do you have," Kaslow said.

Kaslow says start a good place to start is to contact your child's school to find out what resources are available, or talk to your pediatrician.

"It's  important for the parents to remember that their child may need counseling. They may need counseling and medication. They may need more intensive programming than that," Kaslow said.

The good news is that with the right treatment, many children and teens with mental health disorders do well. Kaslow says the earlier you can find that help, the better.

Kaslow says Georgia has a major shortage of resources to help children with mental health problems. She says without more programs and treatment centers, young people will continue to fall through the cracks.

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