What you need to know
Among 100,000 children in Taiwan, 3,100 have thought of taking their own lives, according to the findings of the three-year study.
A national study on child and adolescent mental disorders has found that nearly 30 percent of children in Taiwan suffer from mental disorders and need professional consultation and assistance.
The study also finds that 3.1 percent of children have thought of committing suicide within six months of when they were asked about it.
The figures means that among 100,000 children in Taiwan, 3,100 have thought of taking their own lives, according to the findings of the three-year study initiated by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
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The figures are "worrisome," Chen Li-chung (諶立中), head of the Department of Mental and Oral Health under the ministry, said on Monday upon publication of the 2013-2016 study conducted by Susan Gau (高淑芬), a professor in psychiatry at the College of Medicine of National Taiwan University, on the ministry's commission.
It is the first national epidemiological study on child and adolescent mental disorders of its kind in Taiwan, and is aimed at obtaining prevalence rates (in the periods of lifetime and within the recent six months) and identifying the psychosocial, individual, environmental, and familial risk factors for mental disorders in the youth group.
The mental disorders referred to in the research include learning disability, autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder, and conduct disorder.
They also include mood disorders (major depression, dysthymia, bipolar disorder), anxiety disorders, phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder, sleep disorders, eating disorders, and substance use disorders.
The school-based survey was conducted among students in the third, fifth and seventh grades, who were selected from 69 schools in 19 counties and cities around Taiwan.
A total of the selected 10,122 students received clinical interviews by Gau's research team with their own and their parents' consent.
The survey found that the weighted lifetime prevalence of those diagnosed "positive" for any of the targeted mental disorders in children and adolescents was 32.3 percent, and the prevalence within the recent six months reached 28.7 percent.
The mental disorder with the highest prevalence was ADHD (11.1 percent), followed by nightmare disorder (8.8 percent), phobia (6.4 percent), conduct disorder (4.4 percent), separation anxiety disorder (3.3 percent), oppositional defiant disorder (1.9 percent), social phobia (1.8 percent), and autism (1.0 percent).
The figures are much higher than the one-year nationwide prevalence rate of 2.44 percent for ADHD, 0.33 percent for autism, and under 1 percent for other mental disorders in children and adolescents in national health insurance research carried out in 2012.
Gau concluded that the preliminary results are similar to Western studies, which show that around 25 percent of children and adolescents suffer from at least one kind of psychiatric disorder.
The results indicate that "mental disorders are common in Taiwanese children and adolescents," she wrote in the study report.
Resources should be allocated to the prevention and intervention of child and adolescent mental disorders, Gau said.