Despite increased public attention, Congressional focus on the prevention, early identification, and treatment of childhood mental illness has stalled. During AACAP's Annual Meeting (October 22-27), AACAP members and partners are urging Congress not to lose sight of the needs of children with mental illnesses.
Mental illness continues to impact 20 percent of our nation’s youth. Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14 and three quarters by age 24. Yet, the majority of those diagnosed do not receive treatment. Mental illness is like any other disease in that the earlier it is identified and treated, the better the outcomes. Effective treatments are available, but there is an average delay of 8 to 10 years between the onset of symptoms and intervention. The longer the lag time is between symptom onset and treatment, the more difficult and costly mental illness is to treat and the greater the burden becomes on our public health system. When left untreated, these disorders can lead to serious consequences for children, their families, and our communities.
Mental illnesses are real and treatable. By identifying children and youth struggling with mental illness early, we can improve the lives of the next generation and avoid the tragic and costly consequences of unidentified and untreated mental illness.
I call upon Congress to take immediate action that:
1. Improves the pediatric mental health workforce;
2. Ensures adequate funding of children’s mental health services in community-based systems of care; and
3. Invests in the prevention, early identification, research, and treatment of mental illness.
We, as a nation, can no longer afford the moral, financial and personal costs of inaction. We are counting on our elected leaders to come together to advance this common sense agenda.