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Carter Center Exclusive: CDC Director Tom Frieden Discusses Importance of Mental Health Surveillance

Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. is director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden and Carter Center Mental Health Program Director Dr. Thom Bornemann discuss the importance of focusing on children’s mental health during the 18th annual Rosalynn Carter Georgia Mental Health Forum in May at The Carter Center in Atlanta. (Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/J. Gathany)

It was an honor to share the stage with former First Lady Rosalynn Carter at the 18th annual Rosalynn Carter Georgia Mental Health Forum in May. We celebrated the publication of the MMWR Weekly Report Supplement: “Mental Health Surveillance Among Children in the United States — 2005-2011,” the first-ever summary of federal activities tracking children’s mental disorders in the U.S.

Mental health problems affect millions of children of all races and ethnicities, both boys and girls, and in all regions of the country. There are too many children in our society who, because of their circumstances, don’t have the opportunity to reach their full potential. One of my mentors used to say, “There couldn’t have been only one Einstein…”  How many children are not getting the support they need to contribute great discoveries to art, science, and to our society?  All of us suffer if we aren’t helping our children reach their full potential.

To help our children we need data and action. Data tell us where we are so we can figure out where we need to go. If we don’t know the scope of the problem and whether our programs are working, we can’t fix it. We’re committed to keeping a focus in this area.  With the Affordable Care Act’s increased access to preventive services, more children and adults will have access to mental health care.  This combination of better data with increased access to early detection, treatment, and prevention makes me optimistic that we will better support the next generation to reach their full potential.

Watch highlights from the event:

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  • 1

    Susan on July 12, 2013 at 11:37 am

    At age 58, having suffered with an anxiety disorder and depression since I was in 6th grade, I have hope that the future generations do not experience the same pain and loss of life experiences that hinder those of us with mental disorders. The fears and alienation throughout our life, or feelings of uselessness or non productiveness, of never being the same as those around us, being disregarded or abandoned because of our symptoms – is cruel. How many people become homeless and make up the greater population at shelters- this is not something anyone would look forward to. I hope that not only early detection, but also a willingness and focused effort to include people with mental illness in all facets of life is strived for. Thank you, Rosalynn Carter and The Carter Center.

  • 2

    Paulhaider74 on July 12, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    It is not a mere coincidence that President Jimmy Carter shares the same initials as Jesus Christ. The difference in the two men is that President Carter was fortunate enough to have a wonderful wife, Rosalyn, who has been a tireless champion for mental health services and reform.

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