A nationwide study on child and adolescent mental disorders has found that nearly 30 percent of children have mental disorders and need professional consultation and assistance.
The three-year study commissioned by the Ministry of Health and Welfare also found that 3.1 percent of children had thought of committing suicide within six months prior to being asked about it, meaning that for every 100,000 children, 3,100 have thought about taking their own life.
The figures are “worrisome,” Department of Mental and Oral Health Director-General Chen Li-chung (諶立中) said on Monday upon publication of the study conducted by Susan Gau (高淑芬), a professor of psychiatry at National Taiwan University’s College of Medicine.
It was the first nationwide epidemiological study of child and adolescent mental disorders of its kind in Taiwan, aiming to obtain prevalence rates — within the previous six months and over a lifetime — and to identify the psychosocial, individual, environmental and familial risk factors for mental disorders in the groups.
The mental disorders referred to in the research include learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder.
They also include mood disorders such as major depression, dysthymia and bipolar disorder, as well as anxiety disorders, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder, sleep disorders, eating disorders and substance abuse disorders.
The school-based survey was conducted among students in the third, fifth and seventh grades, who were selected from 69 schools in 19 counties and cities.
A total of 10,122 students received clinical interviews by Gau’s research team with their own and their parents’ consent.
The survey found that the weighted lifetime prevalence of those diagnosed as having any of the targeted mental disorders in children and adolescents was 32.3 percent, while the prevalence within the previous six months was 28.7 percent.
The mental disorder with the highest prevalence was ADHD at 11.1 percent, followed by nightmare disorder at 8.8 percent, phobias at 6.4 percent, conduct disorder at 4.4 percent, separation anxiety disorder at 3.3 percent, oppositional defiant disorder at 1.9 percent, social phobia at 1.8 percent and autism at 1 percent.
The figures are much higher than the one-year nationwide prevalence rate of 2.44 percent for ADHD, 0.33 percent for autism and less than 1 percent for other mental disorders in children and adolescents found in National Health Insurance research carried out in 2012.
Gau said that the preliminary results are similar to Western studies, which showed that about 25 percent of children and adolescents have at least one kind of psychiatric disorder.
The results indicate that “mental disorders are common in Taiwanese children and adolescents,” she wrote in the report.
Resources should be allocated for prevention and intervention to address child and adolescent mental disorders, Gau said.
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