Brain development/Law/Policy Medicine

Generation at risk: America’s youngest facing mental health crisis

From the NBC Newsroom

Alex Crotty was just 11 when things started feeling wrong.

It wasn’t just a matter of being unhappy. She always felt empty and miserable — never content or connected to other children. For years, she suffered alone, filled with shame. She switched schools, but that didn’t help.

“I didn’t feel unloved. I just felt numb to the world. Like, I was surrounded by great things, but just I couldn’t be happy. And I didn’t know why that was,” Alex told NBC News.

Finally, at 14, she decided to break her silence. “I can’t feel anything,” Alex simply told her mother, Heather Olson of New York. “So she just gave me a hug, cradled me in her arms on the bed, and was like, ‘Well can you feel me? Can you feel my love?’”

“A hug and kisses was the only thing that came to mind at the spur of the moment, but that was precisely what she needed to start the journey forward,” Olson said.

Alex Crotty was diagnosed with depression and is now on treatment and feeling better. She urges other young people to speak out about their depression or anxiety. ‘I am so much stronger after coming out of this,’ she says. Alex was diagnosed with major depression and anxiety. Now 16, she is in therapy and on medication. She’s far from alone.

There is an acute health crisis happening among members of the youngest generation of Americans, with critical implications for the country’s future.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 in 5 American children ages 3 through 17 — about 15 million — have a diagnosable mental, emotional or behavioral disorder in a given year.

Only 20 percent of these children are ever diagnosed and receive treatment; 80 percent — about 12 million — aren’t receiving treatment.

Recent research indicates that serious depression is worsening in teens, especially girls, and the suicide rate among girls reached a 40-year high in 2015, according to a CDC report released in August…

Is your toddler depressed?
Mental health problems may actually start much earlier than previously thought.

A toddler who is crying for hours and angrily stomping his or her feet may not be having a temper tantrum, but showing signs of depression. Research suggests that 1 percent to 2 percent of children 2 to 5 years old have depression, said Dr. Joan Luby, director of the Early Emotional Development program at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and a pioneer in the study of the condition in preschoolers.

She believes untreated depression in toddlers can lead to more depression later in life.

“Young children are more cognitively sophisticated, more emotionally sophisticated, than we previously understood. They have complex emotions. They’re aware of emotions in their environment. They feel emotions like guilt,” Luby said. “They have all the prerequisites of what depressive symptoms are.”

That may show up as constant sadness and low self-esteem. A child may not want to play with a favorite toy or with friends over a sustained period of time.

  Read more at NBC News.