Mental illness more deadly than cancer for teens, young adults

Mental illness more deadly than cancer for teens, young adults
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Why isn’t everyone more upset?  A disease is killing our children and it’s worse than cancer and leukemia.  Why is pychiatric research 30-40 years behind cancer, as well as the development of pharmaceuticals and other treatment modalities?

We don’t get casseroles when our child is hospitalized for a mental health crisis

Out of curiosity, I did some research on child mortality rates from various causes, because I wanted to know how death from mental illnesses compared with other fatal illnesses of childhood and adolescence. The results were astonishing, unexpected, and disturbing.

Childhood Illness Age Range Annual Deaths per 100,000 Children
Cancers, leukemia: 5-14 yrs 2.6
Cancers, leukemia: 15-19 yrs 3.6
Childhood diabetes: Avg. 15 yrs 2.2
Anorexia: 15 – 24 years 6
Suicide ** 10 – 14 years 1.6
Suicide ** 15 – 19 years 9.5
Suicide ** 20 – 24 years 13.6

(The chart columns are in the order listed in the box, somehow I couldn’t get the right grays!)

* The starting point for the data on the medical illnesses was the website for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention www.cdcp.gov  in Atlanta; the starting point for the mental illnesses was the website for the National Institute for Mental Health, www.nimh.gov.

** The suicide data was from those with depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and psychotic disorders-unspecified.  (Suicide from other mental health causes, such as borderline personality disorder and co-morbid substance abuse, is also prevalent but I could not find data for young adults.)

This screams out for a changes in attitude, policy, and investment in children’s mental health treatment!  I had no idea that death rates from mental illness were 3 to 4 times higher than the feared cancers and leukemias.  It is imperative that young people with mental health issues receive aggressive and sensitive treatment as would be expected and demanded of medical doctors treating cancer.

The data was difficult to find, requiring searches in many different medical journals and numerous articles, as nothing like it was compiled in one place.  I chose to use the cancer, leukemia, and diabetes data because deaths from all other causes were insignificant by comparison.  The death rates for cancer and leukemia are averages for the different forms of each, and in the journals they were presented together.

I welcome additions or corrections of this data from any other sources, and encourage readers to investigate this for themselves.

 

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2 Comments

Filed under bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression, mental illness, mental illness, parenting, psychiatry, schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, suicide, teenagers

2 Responses to Mental illness more deadly than cancer for teens, young adults

  1. mike

    great article! Not enough is being done. kids are suffering everyday with these unbearable illnesses that I believe are treatable. We are in an era of great discovery in neuroscience. Seemingly every day a new study comes out discovering or unlocking once hidden aspects of these disorders. I believe it should be a government priority to fast track new therapies in a timely fashion and deliver them to the families and sufferers of these terrible illnesses. Whats the hold up?
    Are the pharmaceutical companies to blame? Is the FDA to cumbersome? People are barely hanging on for their lives and so much more can be done.

    • Hello Mike,
      You are right-on to suggest that therapies should be fast tracked and delivered to families. Families are critical to the person’s success throughout their lives. In addition to the government, I believe the mental health profession and its associations should put families first, as well as their patients. We spend so much on other fatal diseases–for goodness sakes, why not more on mental health diseases in teens?

      Thanks and take care, Margaret

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