The rate of severe mental illness among children and adolescents has dropped substantially in the past generation, researchers reported Wednesday, in an analysis that defies public perceptions of trends in youngsters’ mental health.
So begins The New York Times’ front-section coverage of a big paper in a big journal with a big result.
This paper, just published by The New England Journal of Medicine, considers the rate and treatment of childhood mental health impairment. In contrast to other surveys, this paper didn’t find a rise in the rate of mental illness. (Contrast this finding with the comment of a former president of the American Psychiatric Association that such illnesses are “an epidemic hidden in plain view” – that is, obviously there but underreported historically.)
Explains the lead author, Dr. Mark Olfson:
The finding is robust and real and challenges the prevailing stereotype that young people are somehow more vulnerable to mental problems.
How common is mental impairment among children and adolescents? How has this changed in recent years? How are patients being treated? Are we prescribing more than in the past? Olfson et al. seek answers to these important questions in “Trends in Mental Health Care among Children and Adolescents” – this week’s Reading. Continue reading