Health Check Kids: One in 5 kids suffer from mental illness

Alex Crotty, 16, recently spoke to NBC News about her mental health. (WJAR photo)

One in five kids suffer from mental illness.

That’s according to the National Institute of Mental Illness which is reporting 15 million children, at some point, have had a seriously debilitating mental disorder.

"I just felt numb to the world, like, I was surrounded by great things, but I just couldn't be happy,” said 16 year old Alex Crotty, who recently spoke to NBC news. By the time she turned 14, she says she told her mother and went on to get help. And now she’s sharing her story.

"I think that as stigma is going down, that it is being identified more," said Dr. Karyn Horowitz, the director of outpatient services at Bradley Hospital where they offer both in and out-patient services to children between the age of 2 and 18 with serious psychiatric disorders. Horowitz says there are fleeting symptoms.

"Everybody does have days that they feel sad or parts of a day that they feel sad or parts of a day that they'll worry or a day that they can't sleep because they're anxious." It’s when those symptoms worsen and don’t subside.

"So is your child worrying so much that they're not wanting to leave the house, that they don't want to play with their friends; that they are paralyzed with indecision," said Horowitz.

"They feel terrible about themselves, they may even say they wish they weren't alive they wish they weren't born."

"Parents know their children better than anybody else so if the parents are noticing a change in their child that's concerning to them, I think that they should pay attention to the instincts that they have."

"Every adult psychiatric disorder can start in childhood."

And that includes everything from depression to obsessive compulsive disorder to anxiety.

And there can be a genetic component.

"Just like all medical conditions, psychiatric disorders run in families," said Horowitz.

The good news is this: treatment is available and works. Alex has been in therapy and on medication for two years and she says she feels great.

Bradley Hospital has an emergency hotline open to practitioners, parents, children or anyone who needs it. Those clinicians are specially trained to perform evaluations for children and adolescents in need of inpatient, outpatient, or partial hospitalization. The number to call is: 855-543-5465. It is not available on weekends!

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