WASHINGTON -- The federal government should make preventing mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders and promoting mental health in young people a national priority, says a new report from the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. These disorders -- which include depression, anxiety, conduct disorder, and substance abuse -- are about as common as fractured limbs in children and adolescents. Collectively, they take a tremendous toll on the well-being of young people and their families, costing the U.S. an estimated $247 billion annually, the report says.
Research has shown that a number of programs are effective at preventing these problems and promoting mental health, the report says. Such programs could be implemented more broadly, but currently there is no clear federal presence to lead these efforts. The White House should create an entity that can coordinate agency initiatives in this area, set public goals for prevention, and provide needed research and funding to achieve them, said the committee that wrote the report.
"There is a substantial gap between what is known about preventing mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders and what is actually being done," said Kenneth E. Warner, committee chair and dean of the University of Michigan School of Public Health. "It is no longer accurate to argue that these disorders can never be prevented. Many can. The nation is well-positioned to equip young people with the skills and habits needed to live healthy, happy, and productive lives in caring relationships. But we need to develop the systems to deliver effective prevention programs to a far wider group of children and adolescents."
Most mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders have their roots in childhood and adolescence, the report notes. Among adults who have experienced these disorders, more than half report the onset as occurring in childhood or early adolescence. In any given year, an esti
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National Academy of Sciences