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prevention_policymakers_brief - THE NATIONAL Preventing...

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THE ACADEMIES NATIONAL National Academy of Sciences • National Academy of Engineering • Institute of Medicine • National Research Council Mental, emotional, and behavioral (MEB) disorders—which include depression, conduct disorder, and substance abuse—affect large numbers of young people. Studies indicate that MEB disorders are a major health threat and are as commonplace today among young people as a fractured limb-—not inevitable but not at all unusual. Almost one in five young people have one or more MEB disorders at any given time. Among adults, half of all MEB disorders were first diagnosed by age 14 and three-fourths by age 24. Many disorders have life-long effects that in- clude high psychosocial and economic costs, not only for the young people, but also for their families, schools, and communities. The financial costs in terms of treatment services and lost productivity are estimated at $247 bil- lion annually. Beyond the financial costs, MEB disorders also interfere with young people’s ability to accomplish developmental tasks, such as establishing healthy interpersonal re- lationships, succeeding in school, and making their way in the workforce. Clear windows of opportunity are available to prevent MEB disorders and related problems before they occur. Risk factors are well established, preventive interventions are available, and the first symptoms typically precede a disorder by 2 to 4 years. And because mental health and physical health problems are interwoven, improvements in mental health will undoubtedly also improve physi- cal health. Yet the nation’s approach to MEB disorders has largely been to wait to act until a disorder is well-established and has already done considerable harm. All too often, opportunities are missed to use evidence-based approaches to prevent the occurrence of disorders, establish building blocks REPORT BRIEF FOR POLICYMAKERS • MARCH 2009 P REVENTING M ENTAL , E MOTIONAL , AND B EHAVIORAL D ISORDERS A MONG Y OUNG P EOPLE PROGRESS AND POSSIBILITIES
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± Preventing Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders: for Policymakers March ±009 for healthy development in all young people, and limit the environmental expo- sures that increase risk— approaches likely to be far more cost-effective in ad- dressing MEB disorders in the long run. Interventions before a disor- der manifests itself offer the best opportunity to protect young people. Such inter- ventions can be integrated with routine health care and wellness promotion, as well as in schools, families, and communities. A range of policies and practices that target young people with specific risk factors; promote positive emotional development; and build on fam- ily, school, and community resources have proven to be effective at reducing and preventing MEB dis- orders. Making use of the evidence-based interven- tions already at hand could potentially save billions of dollars by preventing or mitigating disorders that would otherwise require expensive treatment.
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