Disorders of language, learning and the autism spectrum. Intellectual disability, epilepsy, neurological disorders, rare and developmental diseases, psychiatric disorders, depression and consequent self-harm and suicide attempts. Neuropsychic disorders of the developmental age are extremely frequent and in Italy affect almost 2 million children and young people (1,857,492), 20% of the infant and adolescent population between 0 and 17 years.
Rather serious data, which must be taken with extreme care. According to the Italian Society of Childhood and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry (Sinpia), the aggravating circumstance was undoubtedly the pandemic and all that it entailed: lockdowns, lack of social relations and a stop to education. The neuropsychic health of children must have the right attention. Suffice it to say that in less than ten years the number of users followed in Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry (Npia) services has doubled, with a prevalence of access 4 times higher than that of adult mental health services and 8 times higher to that of the services for pathological addictions. A rapidly growing trend which contributes to greater awareness of the population, the change in diagnostic criteria, the introduction of screening and early detection strategies, but also the impact of the pandemic and restrictions.
Unicef also agrees on these data, which in one of its latest reports, underlines that in the world, 1 out of 7 adolescents have mental health problems. Anxiety and depression account for 40% of diagnosed disorders. “As Covid-19 enters its third year, the impact on the mental health and well-being of children and young people continues to be felt. According to the latest data available from UNICEF, globally, at least 1 in 7 children have been directly affected by lockdowns, while more than 1.6 billion children have lost part of their education. The disruption of routine, education, recreational activities, as well as concerns about family income and health, make many young people scared, angry and worried about their future, ”the report reads.
A further confirmation is the dramatic data on suicides: they are the second leading cause of death among European adolescents. 3 young people take their own lives every day. Covid-19 has accelerated this worrying trend and the only way forward is to increase government spending on these issues. According to Sinpia: «The first barrier is stigma, considering that patients and their families are still the object of marked prejudices that interfere with diagnosis and therapy, with social inclusion and above all with health planning. Despite very significant changes in the sensitivity of the population, in fact, the tendency to deny the existence of neuropsychic disorders is unfortunately still very marked and has an impact on national and international policies ».
«The answers to the health needs of children and young people with neuropsychic disorders of the developmental age and their families present very significant criticalities. This is why an adequate investment in the promotion of mental health and in the prevention and intervention in neuropsychic disorders of the developmental age is increasingly strategic »reaffirms Antonella Costantino, president of Sinpia.