Research Scientist

Mental Health Disorders


Mental health disorders afflict just over 20 percent of children at some point in their lives. These include mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders (NIH). Suicide was the second leading cause of death among children aged 12-17 years in 2010 (CDC). Mental health disorders are among the most costly conditions to treat in children, costing approximately $250B annually (AAP).

Bipolar disorder, or manic-depressive illness, is most often developed in the late teen or early adult years, with at least half of all cases starting before age 25. It is called early-onset bipolar disorder in children, is treatable and usually lasts throughout a person’s lifetime.  (National Institutes of Mental Health, NIH)

The number of children with bipolar disorder (BD) has increased drastically in the last ten years.  BD is a serious mental illness in which everyday emotions become magnified, often unpredictably. Emotions can swing from happiness, energy and clarity to sadness, fatigue and confusion.  These can impact so greatly that the individual may choose suicide. Those with BD have manic episodes of abnormally elevated or irritable moods that last a week or more.  These manic episodes impair day-to-day functioning. Not all of those with BD become depressed.

Consistent routines, especially with sleep and day-to-day activities may ease the symptoms of BD. These include regular sleep/wake cycles (circadian rhythm), meal times and phycical activity. Several studies have found that normalizing the circadian rhythm of patients with bipolar disorder, in addition to medication, can help keep episodes of mania and depression at bay. (Source: American Psychological Assoc.)

Drug prescriptions for pediatric emotional, behavioral and mental health conditions have risen dramatically.  Nearly 83,000 prescriptions for the antidepressant fluoxetine were written in 2014 for children ages two and under, reflecting a 23 percent increase from the year before.  In this same age group, almost 20,000 prescriptions for antipsychotic medications were written in 2014, a 50 percent jump from 2013 (NY Times). 


NIH Medline Plus

American Psychological Association:  Consistent Routines May Ease Bipolar Disorder

American Psychological Association:  Psychological Science and Bipolar Disorder in Children and Adolescents

Last updated 12-20-2017

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