Mental Health in Childhood: Undiagnosed and Silently Suffering

Mental Health in Childhood: Undiagnosed and Silently Suffering

Calendar-IconApril 4, 2022  |  CHILD FOCUS, THERAPY, TRAUMA
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According to a study by the University of Michigan’s Health Lab as many as 1 in 7 children in the United States are currently suffering from an undiagnosed treatable mental health disorder.  


Standing at nearly 7.7 million American children and teenagers, this figure is staggering. More alarming still is that only half of those 7.7 million received needed treatment from a mental health professional as of 2016.  


The University of Michigan study came from data from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health which surveyed parents of children aged 17 and younger. 44.6 million children were included in the survey and 16.5% had at least one mental health disorder. 


Behind the numbers, the issue is clear: millions of American children are silently suffering from mental health disorders and are not getting the treatment they need.  


This post will dig deeper into the difficulties undiagnosed children with mental disorders face in life, as well as signs of mental illness in the children in your life.  


The Problems that Come with Undiagnosed Mental Illness 


There are so many misconceptions surrounding mental illnesses that there is little wonder that they so often go undiagnosed.  


Mental illness does not correspond to a person's age, ethnicity, or income level. Many people are biased when it comes to mental illness. They see those with mental health issues as outsiders, and in some cases, they believe mental illness is a result of deficient character.  


For these reasons, parents are often reluctant to seek help for mental illness. The stigma surrounding mental health has persisted for centuries. Parents simply do not want to expose their children to misconceptions and prejudice by seeking treatment. 


Instead, too many make a worse choice. They choose to ignore the signs of mental illness until the problems become too severe to manage. 


Undiagnosed mental illness has a wide range of effects. 


Children with undiagnosed and untreated mental illnesses are much more likely to leave their education without a diploma, abuse drugs, or wind up incarcerated.  


The Family Guidance Center estimates that close to 50% of all youths in jail or prison are living with undiagnosed mental illness. 


Nearly half of all mental illnesses manifest themselves in the early teen years. The Family Guidance Center further states that 70% of those youths with mental illnesses who are diagnosed and treated see positive results.  


Below are some symptoms of mental health disorder provided by the Family Guidance Center. 


  • Sleep changes 

  • Mood changes 

  • Appetite changes 

  • Drop-in performance at school 

  • New signs of fear or anxiety 

  • Problems in multiple areas of life 


Children and teens who experience two to three of these symptoms should pursue a mental health assessment immediately. 


What Comes Next? 


If you are worried that a child or teen in your life is suffering from undiagnosed mental illness, then the best course of action is to pursue a mental health assessment from a qualified professional.  


Never try to self-diagnose or self-treat mental illnesses. Only mental health professionals can help those suffering from mental illness.  


In some cases, therapy or another therapeutic service is all that is needed to help the child recover from their illness. In more severe cases, regular medication may be required.  


If your child or family needs therapy or a better connection to community resources, reach out to Child Focus. We are committed to helping all children get the support and treatment they need.  


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