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Growing Pressures Feed Kids’ Mental Health Issues, Expert Says

It’s not your imagination, or mere nostalgia for the good ol’ days: Today’s children and teens have more mental-health problems than earlier generations.

The reason is a mix of social, environmental and even dietary factors, but the problem is growing, said experts speaking Wednesday to the Columbus Metropolitan Club.

“We have an honest-to-God epidemic that dwarfs the polio epidemic,” said Dennis Embry, a child psychologist and researcher from Tucson, Arizona. “One out of two of America’s children will have a mental, emotional or behavioral disorder … by age 18. That is a fact.”

Speaker Katherine Reynolds Lewis, a journalist, said that schools that teach social and emotional development well have a few things in common: The children bond strongly with adults, who model behavior. Children have some buy-in, helping to shape the rules for the classrooms. And finally, the schools look at behavior problems as a learning experience, instead of using a system of reward and punishment to get compliance.