"A mental disorder is an illness of the mind that can affect the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of a person, preventing him or her from leading a happy, healthful and productive life" (Merki, p238). Many children and adolescents have mental health problems that interfere with their daily life. Some mental health problems are minor, while others are more severe. Some mental health problems last for only short periods of time, while others can last a lifetime. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one in ten children and teens suffer from mental illness severe enough to cause problems in their daily life. "Mental disorders are estimated to affect 16% of U.S. children and youth. This figure reflects on difficulties severe enough to interfere with a child's daily functioning, including problems with schoolwork, social contacts, and adjustments" (Pardes, p702). Studies show that 8% of teens suffer from depression.
In the past 40 to 50 years, adolescent depression has increased drastically. The average beginning age has dropped. While the number of childhood cases diagnosed are equal between boys and girls, twice as many teen girls are diagnosed as boys. Recurrence of depression occurs in half of depressed teens within seven years. The symptoms of child and adolescent depression are very similar to those of adult depression, but since children may not be able to describe what they"re feeling, so they might show their feelings through behavior. Youth with depression are most likely to show it through phobias, anxieties, or behavior disorders. Teens with depression can show irritability, aggressive behavior and talk of suicide. Depression is caused by heredity as well as their environment. It could be triggered by bad parenting, stressful experiences, or a negative world view. It is also associated with family history of mood disorders and other psychiatric conditions.