Caring mental health of children


Dear Editor,
Children’s emotional wellbeing is just as important as their physical health. Good mental health helps them develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults. Most children grow up mentally healthy, but surveys suggest that more children and young people have problems with their mental health today than 30 years ago. Mental health problems affect around one in six children. They include depression, anxiety and conduct disorder (a type of behavioral problem), and are often a direct response to what is happening in their lives. Alarmingly, however, 75 per cent of children and young people who experience a mental health problem aren’t getting the help they need. Now, a new UCLA study has found that young adults who have experienced discrimination have a higher risk for both short and long-term behavioral and mental health problems. The findings of the study were published in the journal ‘Pediatrics’. Researchers examined a decade’s worth of health data on 1,834 Americans who were between 18 and 28 years old when the study began. They found that the effects of discrimination may be cumulative – that the greater number of incidents of discrimination someone experiences, the more their risk for mental and behavioral problems increases. The study also suggested that the effects of discrimination in young adults are connected with disparities in care for mental health concerns and institutional discrimination in health care overall, including inequities in diagnoses, treatment and health outcomes. Previous studies have linked discrimination – whether due to racism, sexism, ageism, physical appearance or other biases – to a higher risk for mental illness, psychological distress and drug use. While previous research has examined the correlation in childhood or later adulthood, this new study is the first to focus on the transition to adulthood and to follow the same group of individuals over time. The findings are particularly relevant in light of the stresses young adults are facing nationwide today. The last two years of COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront new mental health challenges – particularly for vulnerable populations. We have the opportunity to rethink and improve mental health services to acknowledge the impact of discrimination, so we can provide more equitable care deliveries.