Children mental health disorders is on the rise?
Over the past two years, the problem of mental disorders among children and young people has gained momentum. The challenge for adults is to react timely and help overcome the difficulties related to mental welfare. In this article, we’d like to bring up the issue:
- Which disorders are most commonly diagnosed
- Statistics and comparison of pre-COVID-19 period and now
- What causes the mental health issues
- Sweden’s example of coping with the problem
Also, we’ll tell you about one company that came up with a solution aimed to turn the tide.
The situation in figures
The increase in cases of mental disorders can be seen in the figures. The world’s statistics say:
- 50% of children’s mental health disorders occur by the age of 14 and 75% of cases are diagnosed before a person reaches 24
- 70% of children and adolescents with mental health concerns did not receive appropriate therapy at a very young age
It is estimated that more than 13% of adolescents worldwide suffer from mental disorders.
Among adolescents aged 10-19, anxiety and depressive disorders prevail and are diagnosed in 40% of children’s mental disorders cases. Behavioral disorders (20.1%) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (19.5%) are going next.
The number of adolescents around the world is 166 million (89 million boys and 77 million girls). According to UNICEF, every seventh of them suffers from a mental disorder.
After the COVID-19 Pandemic Outbreak
Before the pandemic, a large number of children were facing psychosocial disorders and poor mental health. UNICEF, together with Gallup, has conducted a survey in 21 countries that found that about 1 in 5 people aged 15-24 often experienced depression symptoms. COVID-19 outbreak has spurred a worsening of the situation. With the growing number of children and adolescents’ mental concerns growing, only 20% of the children reached mental health care.
The situation across the countries is shaped in the following way:
UK: In July 2021, health care providers highlighted the historic maximum of children and young people seeking psychiatric aid.
USA: CDC’s data reveals the comparative data from March 2020 to October 2020, the number of children aged 5 to 11 years who visited the emergency department due to mental health-related issues, increased by 24%. The number of children aged 12 to 17 years increased by 31%.
Europe: according to Nina Heinrichs, professor of the Department of Psychology at the University of Bremen, the 2-year-lasting pandemic seems to stipulate the growth in the number of children suffering from a mental illness from 10 to 20% to 20-25%.
The following mental health problems have been diagnosed among children and young people:
- Internalizing disorders (mood and anxiety disorders)
- Externalizing disorders (behavioral and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders)
- Suicidal thoughts
- Eating disorders
Based on the above, it can be concluded that tracking statistics on mental disorders is significant. Thanks to it, we can track the growth of disorders. If the growth is left to stand unconsidered and no action is taken, the figures will continue going up.
Schools to Become the Places Where the Most Problems Arose
A particular problem in the covid and now post-covid times is that many schools pay attention to the increase in school children’s requests for psychiatric services.
For example, in the United States, 7 out of 10 public schools reported such information, and 85% of schools encouraged their employees to solve problems of emotional and mental well-being of students.
7 out of 10 schools in the US have started to report the growth of students’ appointment to mental care providers after the COVID-19 pandemic has started. In 85% of the schools, the focus was set on issue resolving.
Things were not as easy as one might have hoped. Schools were unable to provide sufficient mental health services. It was reported they’re lacking access to licensed professionals and limited staff capabilities.
Schools in the UK and Europe faced the same issue when the mental health assistance centers are in a high demand. For this reason, a number of staff were hired to solve the problem of children and young people’s mental health. Eventually, the staff was increased by 1.5 times during the pandemic.
The problem also affected Europe: school staff have not enough qualifications and knowledge to address mental disorders. Also, the teachers have a heavy workload that greatly affects their ability to monitor the students’ mental state.
A school in Sweden reached out to our colleagues at Allbry and ordered a solution that would help monitor the students’ mental state without overburdening the school staff’s workload.
What Causes the Problems in COVID Times
As COVID-19 has broken into our countries, our lives irrevocably turned around, and we had to adapt to new living conditions. Was the shift smooth for you, or did you experience the anxiety and worries in front of the new comings? Those changes affected the mental wellbeing of children and adolescents, too.
Most studies report the following pandemic swaps shook emotional management and worsened behavior:
- school shutdowns
- changed sleep patterns
- school communication transferred to the Internet
- uncertainty in what will happen in the future
The pressure to deal with the issue fell onto the educational institutions. It turned out that schools and universities did not know how to deal with this. It was not possible to ensure proper monitoring and supporting students. That’s why the problem of children and young people’s mental disorders came to the fore.
Sweden Example to Learn About Other Problems
“With stress and mental illness, for many, it’s a very anxious subject”
– An adolescent girl in Sweden
Schoolchildren in Sweden are the subject of the greatest interest in the field of mental health, which explains their willingness to order products in this field. Over the last 10 years, the self-assessment of mental health problems among children aged 10-17 has increased by more than 100%. For young people aged 18-24, the increase is almost 70%.
However, many teenagers with mental disorders do not receive professional aid.
Barriers are partly to blame:
– Barrier #1: low-level awareness of what professional care options are available
– Barrier #2: stigmatization of mental illness: fear of what others might think and a preference to seek help from family rather than professionals
– Barrier #3: Parents’ little knowledge regarding mental health (if the child prefers their help over professionals), as evidenced by various surveys
Another problem reported in Sweden regions is the mental aid organization workers sometimes didn’t know who was responsible for the support and mental care of adolescents.
In theory, the school format of providing medical care looks good, but in reality, schools have to employ a competent doctor, a school nurse, a school social worker, and a psychologist which may be troublesome. The Swedish SHT has been criticized by OECD and Swedish School Inspectorate, pointing toward a sharp national understaffing.
According to a survey conducted among a Swedish group of teachers and social workers, frequently reported problems related to the mental health of students were noted:
1. Students feel over pressured due to the academic performance – the feeling that you don’t study well enough, but you need to be the best.
2. Impersonation because of social media: Students tend to listen to bloggers. Once they hear similar symptoms from a blogger, they may decide they have the same disorder. There is a discrepancy with the real world because of the lack of feedback and attempts to associate oneself with other people.
3. Students are told that sadness is something bad, because of which their self—esteem decreases.
Have you ever found yourself in this kind of state, when you were a student? The modern youth face the problems on a larger scale due to the pandemic. In a situation, for example, with remote learning, these problems are exacerbated by an even greater gap in the physical environment. It makes it difficult for schoolchildren and students to distinguish between reality and what is being said on social networks. They simply do not have a strategy to deal with such a problem, which is confirmed by other studies with a survey of teachers (for example, Johnsen Hjetland et al).
How Can These Problems Be Solved?
For example, one of the recommendations of UNICEF is to make schools a safe space for positive mental health. But this is a very vague formulation, so let’s go back to the example with Allbry and their work with the school.
As noted in the CJPH study, worldwide, in order to provide timely psychological assistance to children and young people, emphasis should be placed on the use of digital monitoring tools for students with mandatory reporting and self-reporting.
Thanks to this, it is possible:
- to identify mental health problems among students’ on the early stage
- to relief the teachers’ workload and grant access to the information on students’ mental condition to the school top management
- to connect, if desired, with external consultants who could efficiently communicate both with students and with the school management
Based on such data and a request from the client, Allbry decided to create a solution that allows schools to track students’ psychological state. However, a number of other problems were confronted:
1. Law & Standards: There are European laws that complicate the development. For instance, the law requires all chat data in such services to be automatically (or at least manually) deleted every few months. Such things need to be taken into account and be implemented when developing a product.
2. Experience of Niche & Time-To-Market: immediately from the previous paragraph comes the problem of developing such nuances of automation. Development of such projects require experience as they have complex designs. Issues related to architecture, templates, etc. may arise. Having a lack of experience will delay the development timeframe.
These are just a few points from the prolonged list of problems that a developer may encounter.