Mental illness in children is not a 'phase'

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Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin before the age of 14, a new study says. The study concludes that psychiatric disorders in children are "not a phase" and that early intervention is crucial.

The study was conducted by Harvard University, the University of Michigan and the National Institute of Mental Health Intramural Research Program.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains mental disorders among children as "serious deviations from expected cognitive, social and emotional development." With new autism rates at only 1 in 64, according to the latest CDC data, this is only becoming more important to understand.

Mental health assessments in children are crucial to finding and intervening with problems early on. While even children can have bad days or even several days of "being off," any child who shows marked changes in behavior over more than a week or two should be evaluated. Any consistent change is one to be checked, experts agree.

Most assessments are relatively simple and the younger the child, the less invasive (personally) the assessment is going to be. When very young, children often do not communicate well verbally, so experts will use tests that include "play therapy" and other techniques to evaluate the child's development and mental status.

In the pre-teen and teenage years, however, therapies and tests can be more conclusive. While not always recommended by mental health professionals, full psychological exams can be given at these ages. Most of the time, conversations and longer-term contact are the preferred method.

Quite often, treatments for mental disorders in younger children do not involve medication. Much of the literature and study into childhood mental illness points to non-medical interventions such as therapy as being more effect for the long-term.

Above all, however, early intervention is the real key. Children are very capable of recovery from most trauma and illness if they are provided with the tools needed to do so.

 
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