Forum Session

Children's Mental Health: Prevalence, Illness Burden, and Efforts at Prevention and Early Intervention
November 20, 2009


Judith D. Moore & Rob Cunningham, Consultant


Mental, emotional, and behavioral health problems affect nearly one in five young people. Epidemiological studies have reported these problems to be the most costly and prevalent of all chronic childhood illnesses. The costs are high in terms of social, family, and financial stress and dysfunction, and precipitate burdens in the social welfare, education, health and justice systems. Recent work by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) considers advances and potential interventions in this area and reports on promising strategies that are emerging for prevention, screening, and early intervention to resolve moderate conditions and mitigate the effects of the most serious illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Policies and resources to implement many of the most promising research projects and bring them to scale remain to be developed. This Forum session provided an overview of this complex subject, with speakers describing the overall extent of children’s mental health problems, the recent NAS report, and the research and evidence base for early intervention and preventive programs and techniques.


Richard G. Frank, PhD, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Irwin Sandler, PhD, Director, Prevention Research Center and Regents’ Professor, Department of Psychology, Arizona State University and Panel Member, NRC-IOM Committee on Prevention of Mental Disorders and Substance Abuse Among Children, Youth and Families: Research Advances and Promising Interventions; William McFarlane, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, University of Vermont and Director, Center for Psychiatric Research, Maine Medical Center (Portland, Maine)

Slides from the presentations by Dr. Frank, Dr. Sandler, and Dr. McFarlane are available for download. Speakers' biographies are also available.

Related Materials

See the recent book by the National Academy of Sciences, Preventing Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People: Progress and Possibilities, National Research Council and Institute of Medicine (National Academies Press, 2009).

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