Some 17.1 million American children have or have had a mental illness and two-thirds of them aren’t getting treatment, according to a report from the Child Mind Institute. The report was released as part of a national collaborative initiative, “Speak Up for Kids.” Psychiatrist Harold Koplewicz, President of the Institute, told media that these mental disorders are “real,” that the situation is “absolutely, truly” a “crisis,” and that parents should feel comfortable with his assertions because he isn’t being paid by drug companies to say them.
The Child Mind Institute report stated that 49.5% (or 36.9 million) of America’s 74.5 million children “have had a diagnosable mental illness at some point before they are 18.” Elsewhere, the report stated that of America’s 74.5 million children, 17.1 million (or 23%) “have or have had a diagnosable psychiatric disorder.” It was not explained how “diagnosable mental illness” and “diagnosable psychiatric disorder” differed. However, in both cases the sources of the numbers were general surveys using mental health screening tools known to produce high rates of false positives, and the report acknowledged that “statistics on the number of children and adolescents who have mental illness vary depending on what you measure…”
Koplewicz assured Medscape that “we are talking about real, debilitating illness” in millions of children, representing “absolutely, truly, a public health crisis.”
Child and adolescent psychiatrist David Rettew added, “Also, to those who would like to say that we are overdiagnosing everything, I would point out that if we conducted a national survey of kids and asked them how many of them were ever diagnosed with an orthopedic or respiratory problem, we’d probably get numbers even higher, yet nobody accuses these folks of making things up.”
“We do not take money from the pharmaceutical industry,” Koplewicz also assured Medscape. “I think we might be the only medical institution that has taken that stand. We even put it in our charter. So if I tell you that medicine is an option to treat children, parents should feel comfortable, because I’m not doing it because I’m being paid to do so, I’m doing it because it’s medically sound.”
The Child Mind’s Institute’s listed partners in its Speak Up for Kids initiative, though, includes many organizations being funded by pharmaceutical companies. In addition, as discussed in a number of Mad in America articles (see below), earlier in his career, Koplewicz was co-author of “Study 329,” which has been described by many commentators as an iconic symbol of pharmaceutical industry corruption of psychiatry. A legal settlement between GlaxoSmithKline and the US Department of Justice summarized that the final, highly influential journal article about the antidepressant Paxil’s effects on children “distorted the study results and gave the false impression that the study’s findings were primarily positive, when they were, in fact, primarily negative.”
In Medscape, Koplewicz compared his Child Mind Institute’s work to St. Jude’s.
Most US Children With Mental Illness Go Untreated (Medscape Medical News, May 7, 2015)
Child Mind Institute Children’s Mental Health Report Finds An Estimated 17.1 Million Young People In The US Have Or Have Had A Diagnosable Psychiatric Disorder (Child Mind Institute press release on PRNewswire, May 4, 2015)
Children’s Mental Health Report (Child Mind Institute)
Study 329’s Authors: Should Those Who Live in Glass Houses Throw Stones? (Mad in America, August 6, 2012)
The Proactive Search for Mental Illnesses in Children (Mad in America, July 7, 2014)