Related Epidemics? Teen Mental Health Crisis & Neurodevelopmental Disorders

It has never been easy to be an adolescent, but by the look of things, twenty-first century teenagers may be having a harder time than ever. One contributing factor—the one that public health agencies and the media seem most willing to discuss—is a ballooning epidemic of mental health problems in teens. Meanwhile, an equally grim developmental disability crisis has been unfolding for years, affecting at least one in six American children and teens but receiving little attention.

Officialdom’s subtle sidelining of developmental disorders in favor of a focus on mental health is somewhat baffling, given that researchers frequently use the terms “neuropsychiatric” and “neurodevelopmental” interchangeably. This is particularly the case when they refer to diagnoses such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other behavioral disorders. In fact, one of the most credible national surveys cited as evidence of the teenage mental health crisis (called the NCS-A and published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry in 2010) defines


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