Mental illness is twice as common in children as asthma, notes child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Susan Swick. And yet many parents find it harder to grasp the best ways to address, prevent, and access treatment for mental illness in children.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, one in six children in the United States had a diagnosed mental illness, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, a number that rose sharply over the past decade, exacerbated as the pandemic wore on.
“There are emergency flares going up on the mental wellbeing of our children, teenagers and young adults,” said Swick, who works with children, teens and their families as director of Ohana Center for Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health in Monterey County, Calif. “Parents and teachers and other caring adults in the orbits of children are asking for support on this, and we need to listen.”
The average age of onset for an anxiety disorder – the most common type of mental illness that crops up in childhood – is 7, said Swick.
Catching early signs of a mental health issue in childhood can prevent it from spiraling into a crisis during adolescence or young adulthood
“In my heart of hearts, I am very hopeful that although the current situation is concerning, I think good news is hidden in there: If we see rates of mental illness can go up, that means a lot of those are preventable and can come down,” said Swick.
“With early identification and evidence-based treatment (for mental illness), around 75% of kids will go into remission and not need treatment again.”
Reckon spoke with Swick about how parents should think about mental health