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Is the Mental Health System Failing Troubled Kids?
Date:12/19/2012

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Dec. 18 (HealthDay News) -- In the aftermath of the mass shooting that claimed the lives of 20 children in Newtown, Conn., last Friday, voices around the nation are asking, "How could this have happened?"

At the heart of any answer is the psychological makeup of Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old shooter who forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School before gunning down the young students and six adults. Earlier that morning, he shot and killed his mother in the home they shared.

Details of Lanza's mental health issues are still emerging, but it's clear he was a troubled child and young adult. As reported by ABC News, typical comments by people who knew Lanza included "weird kid," "not well" and "hated looking at your eyes."

Mental health experts stressed that merely noting that a child seems "weird" is not enough to mandate that he or she seek care. Most agree, however, that children and young people with mental health issues across the United States are falling through the cracks of an inadequate system.

According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, half of all cases of mental illness begin to develop before the age of 14. Despite this, the United States has a dire shortage of child mental-health providers, said Dr. Howard Liu, medical director of the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

As far back as 2007, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) commissioned a report looking at the issue. "This report found that there were many gaps in the mental health system, including a critical shortage of all child and adolescent providers," Liu said.

In the report's words, "There is a critical shortage of individuals trained to meet the needs of children and youth, and their families. As just one example, the federal government has pro
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