New Study Shows Most Kids With Mental Health Issues Aren't Getting Treatment

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If you're a parent, your No. 1 priority is raising a healthy, happy kid. But how often do you really think about your child's mental health? A new analysis, published in JAMA Pediatrics, suggests that we should all be paying more attention to mental health issues in children since many of them aren't getting proper care—or any care at all—for their conditions.

For this study, researchers surveyed more than 50,000 parents. The results showed that more than 16 percent of children in the U.S. have a mental health condition. This number alone is cause for concern but even more so when you learn that the number of kids struggling with mental health issues is growing steadily. Even more shocking? Only about half of these kids actually received some kind of counseling or treatment.

Unsurprisingly, the analysis showed that socioeconomic factors affect how likely it is that children will get treatment for their mental health issue. For example, the state the children lived in mattered greatly when it came to mental health treatment. In states like North Carolina, only about a fourth of children with a mental health condition received care. More specifically, 72 percent of children with a treatable mental health disorder didn't get care. That's not a number we should be taking lightly.

So what can we do to safeguard our children's mental health? First, make sure you're familiar with common warning signs that something is off. According to Ellen Vora, M.D., a holistic psychiatrist and mbg Collective member, "Common signs and symptoms that your kid is struggling with their mental health include abdominal issues, headaches, and general malaise. Hyperactivity is also something to look out for but is often harder to diagnose in girls than boys; oftentimes, girls are more inattentive than hyperactive." Dr. Vora recommends checking out the book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, "You want to have a good open conversation with your kids so you know what's going on in their inner world."

She also believes in creating conditions for them to not have mental health issues in the first place. "It starts with nutrition, so make sure they are eating plentiful real food, including healthy fats and plenty of well-sourced protein, meats, egg yolks, and obviously lots and lots of veggies. Avoid foods that exacerbate health issues, such as dairy, gluten, and sugar." And finally, she adds, let kids be kids. "I'm a big supporter of the idea that kids need to be outside, bored, using their imagination They need to go to bed early and sleep in a dark, cold, quiet room with white noise—and no technology."

By knowing how to create an environment that's supportive of mental health and identify signs that something is awry, we can help protect our kids from mental health issues. After that, it's about creating larger policies that increase access to mental health care and making sure children with mental health issues aren't falling through the cracks.

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