CHILDREN ON THE BRINK

Americans are paying a high price for ignoring serious mental illness in children, according to a new report from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

"Families on the Brink," the alliance's report on a national survey of parents and caregivers, argues that undiagnosed mental illness reveals itself in a rising tide of youth violence in this country and in record-setting figures for youth suicide.

No good figures are available, but health experts estimate that at least one of every 10 children and adolescents suffers from a serious mental illness.

Survey responses from more than 900 families with mentally ill children suggest that primary care physicians miss more than half of all such cases, and that even when mental illness is diagnosed, insurance issues often make it difficult to get treatment or to pay for it.

Some highlights from the survey:

56% of respondents said their primary care physician did not recognize their child's problem; only 34% of respondents said primary care physicians routinely evaluated mental, emotional and behavioral issues and development.

66% of respondents said their health insurers did not give mental illnesses parity with other medical conditions; about half of them said the lack of parity impeded needed care.

23% of respondents said they were told they'd have to relinquish custody of their child to get needed services; 20% of them said they agreed to do so.