Mood disorders were significantly higher among Mexican-Americans than whites or blacks, but overall there were few ethnic differences in the rates of disorders.
Among children and adolescents with mental problems, 55 percent had seen a mental health professional. However, only 32 percent of those with anxiety disorder had gotten treatment.
Merikangas said that anxiety and depression are the most neglected problems.
"It is not immediately evident that a child with anxiety is really suffering because they don't make trouble," she said. "If anything, those are the children who are quiet in class, they don't respond, and teachers are not aware that these children are suffering."
In addition, black and Mexican-American children were much less likely to seek help than were white children, highlighting the need, according to the researchers, to identify and remove barriers to treatment for minority children.
"We need to be more aware of these conditions at the primary levels where we have our contact with kids -- that's the school system," Merikangas said.
Parents and teachers need to be aware of these conditions and make a judgment whether children need help so their condition "doesn't interfere with their educational, social and personal development," she said.
And the earlier mental health problems are identified, the better the chance of success in resolving them, she said.
"The earlier you can intervene, the less likely you are to see the consequences of these conditions, such as kids developing substance abuse, suicide, kids dropping out of school and kids not being able to function in their social roles," Merikangas said.
Dr. Jon Shaw, a professor and director of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, agreed that anxiety and depression in children often go unrecognized.
But he said there are
All rights reserved