Statement of Mental Health America on Report
On Youth Mental Health
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (March 26, 2009)—Mental Health America concurs with the Institute of Medicine/National Research Council report that the prevention of mental health and substance abuse conditions among youth must be a national priority. In addition, the report illustrates the importance of including the prevention of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders as a core element of health care reform. While a number of reform proposals focus on preventing and managing chronic illness as a key principle, greater attention must be paid to mental and substance use conditions.
Mental and substance use conditions are the most chronic illnesses with an early age of onset and disabling course if left untreated. They are also the most likely co-occurring conditions with other chronic illnesses.
The report estimates that mental, emotional and behavioral disorders cost $247 billion annually in treatment and lost productivity. This is more than the revenue of 496 of the Fortune 500 companies and does not include costs in juvenile justice, child welfare and other human service systems. The World Health Organization estimates that the mental and addictive disorders cause more burden of disease in the United States than any other health conditions—twice as much as cardio-vascular disease.
Mental Health America supports the faithful implementation and wide dissemination of a strong science base in both prevention and treatment. The report documents effective interventions that could reduce problem behaviors, increase academic achievement and reduce the rate at which individuals develop diagnosable disorders.
School-based violence prevention programs could produce a 25-33 percent reduction in the base rate of aggressive problems in an average school. The Good Behavior Game could reduce disruptive and aggressive behavior and reduce the likelihood that initially aggressive students would receive a diagnosis of conduct disorder by sixth grade or that persistently highly aggressive boys would receive a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder as a young adult. School-based social and emotional learning programs that include academic achievement could potentially produce the equivalent of a 10 percentage point gain in academic test performance. Interventions to prevent depression could both reduce the number of new cases of depression in adolescents and reduce depressive symptoms among children and youth.
As in other areas of medicine, our challenge is to ensure that every child, family and community have access to these evidence-based practices so young people can reach their full potential. Unfortunately, we lack a national initiative to advance the use of prevention and promotion approaches to benefit the mental health of the nation’s young people. There is no national program, like the physical fitness initiative of the 60’s, to ensure that every child maximizes his or her capacity.
Mental Health America endorses the implementation of the successful strategies highlighted in the report and strongly urges Congress and the Administration to integrate these strategies as a critical component of a successful health care reform agenda in order to rebuild our human infrastructure that has become so dangerously frayed.
Mental Health America agrees with this report that a national campaign to realize the promise of our science must be waged. And we must also continue to develop the science of prevention and promotion and, perhaps more importantly, the science of successful implementation.
With a national commitment to implementing proven and effective prevention strategies, we can strengthen families, lower health care costs, and allow our young people to reach their full potential.