Kids and mental illness by the numbers

Curing mental illness, with all its variables, makes curing Alzheimer’s look like a walk in the park.”

Laurence Hirshberg, Brown University professor and director of the Neurodevelopment Center, Providence, R. I.

1% of children in public schools receive special classes (about 8,200 in Missouri, 4,500 in Kansas) because they are severely emotionally disturbed.

5% of America’s 80 million children (about 4 million children) have a mental or emotional illness considered “severe.”

11% of

America’s 80 million children (about 9

million) have a mental or emotional illness

considered “significant.”

20% of America’s 80 million children (about 16 million) have a

diagnosable mental disorder from mild to severe.


of children with mental and emotional problems receive adequate treatment.

Beginning in July, reporter Eric Adler and photographer Tammy Ljungblad followed the plights of five children inside Spofford Home, a nonprofit residential treatment center, which offered unprecedented access for this series. The Star chose the children based on their stories and parental cooperation. Parents, who wanted to raise awareness about children and mental illness, gave signed permission to peruse medical records, to record therapy sessions, and to conduct in-depth interviews with them, their children, therapists and others. Interviews with dozens of mental-health experts, and more than 3,000 pages of local, state and federal reports, were also used to prepare this series.

Adler, 47, has worked at The Star since 1985. His work has won numerous awards including first place from the National Headliner Awards and the American Association of Sunday and Features Editors. He lives in Kansas City with his wife, Tamara, and 9-year-old son, Aidan.

Ljungblad, 43, has been at The Star for 17 years. Her photographs were part of The Star’s 1992 Pulitzer Prize-winning series. She has also won awards from the National Press Photographers Association and the Missouri Press Association. She lives in Prairie Village with her husband, Brian, and 7-year-old son, Brett.

Bill Luening edited the series, Charles W. Gooch designed the printed pages and Don Munday edited the copy.

Marcus’ tangled mind proves daunting to his new therapist.


Suicide, often a consequence of severe mental illness, is the leading cause of violent death worldwide.

Suicide: 49. 1 percent

Homicide: 31.3 percent

War deaths: 18.6 percent

Source: — World Health Organization