Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Emotional Health of Children in the Bay Area

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How emotionally healthy are the children in the San Fransisco Bay Area? Emotional and behavioral health includes self-confidence, the ability to maintain caring relationships, being able to cope with difficulties, being optimistic, and the ability to make positive choices.

We know nationally that at any given time, about 5% of children and teens are depressed. Depression is difficult to diagnose in youth and manifests differently than it does in adults, but we know it is linked to suicidal behavior and stress in youth. Likewise, stress can harm children when it is intense, persistent, uncontrollable, and when children or teens do not have resources or coping mechanisms to handle it.

Stress is associated with emotional and physical illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety disorders and addiction. Youth experiencing stress are more vulnerable to participation in substance abuse, smoking cigarettes, poor academic performance, injuries, gang involvement, delinquent behavior and sexual activity.

In 2006 the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health commissioned a study with parents in the Bay Area to understand the emotional health of children. In Santa Clara County, parents mostly reported that they thought their children's emotional health was excellent (50%) or good (36%), however 14% reported their children had a high or very high stress level and 20% of parents in Santa Clara County reported they were worried that their children were depressed.

The children most likely to have parents who were concerned about their emotional health were members of immigrant families, families with financial trouble or low annual incomes, and families with high levels of conflict. Parents perceived the sources of stress as the amount of school work, pressure to excel, and peer relationships.

If you are worried about a child or teen, please talk to your doctor or a counselor and get help.
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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