According to a new study by the Department of Health, New York City preteens struggle with mental illness at rates no higher than their counterparts nationwide. But the numbers are still startling: More than 145,000 city kids — roughly one in five — between the ages of six and 12 are reported to have mental health conditions and other related issues. Of that number, 6 percent have been diagnosed with ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, or other behavioral disorders.
Considering that many such cases go unreported, the study acknowledges that the actual rates are likely much higher. Additionally, as reported by the New York Post, officials recognize that mental-health disorders are often associated with social stigmas that keep kids and parents from seeking help — and parents might not recognize certain behaviors as a problem in the first place.
The study also documents a considerable lack of ongoing care. Only two-thirds of children with a diagnosis had been treated by a mental health professional within the past year, and only 17 percent of kids who are undiagnosed but whose parents have reported as having behavioral or emotional problems had seen a professional.
The Department of Health states that more than 400 schools offer mental-health services, either as part of school-based health centers or through clinics. With teen suicide rates at new highs and awareness increasing about the onset of mental-health illness during adolescence, the city claims it is taking steps to do more to address these conditions early on.
The health department’s most recent mental health budget emphasizes its efforts to train all of the city’s 400-plus middle school nurses to identify students with depression or at risk for suicide–though nurses in only 100 schools have been trained thus far. The city is also distributing an online interactive training tool for teachers to help them recognize mental-health issues in their classrooms, and it is expanding a new program for mobile mental-health teams to work with schools citywide.