Business & Practice Areas: Children's Mental Health Facts - The National Council
Download a PDF of Children's Mental Health Facts.
For more information, contact Chris Loftis, PhD, Director of State Policy
Mental Health Facts: Children’s Behavioral Health Problems are Widespread
Mental, emotional and behavioral (MEB) health is a critical component of a child’s well-being. Almost one in five young people have one or more MEB disorders, and one in 10 youth has mental health problems that are severe enough to impair how they function at home, school, or in the community.
A greater proportion of children and youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems have mental health problems than children and youth in the general population.
- 50% of children and youth in the child welfare system have mental health problems.
- 67% to 70% of youth in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health disorder.
Prevalence Estimates of Mental, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders In Young People
CD = Conduct Disorder; ODD = Oppositional Defiant Disorder; ADHD = Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Source: Preventing Mental, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People, 2009. National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, of the National Academies.
Mental Health Facts: Early Detection and Intervention are Critical
The onset of major child mental health disorders may occur as early as 7 to 11 years old.
- Research supported by the National Institute of Mental Health indicates that half of adults with MEB disorders were first diagnosed by age 14 and three fourths were diagnosed by age 24.
- Factors that predict mental health problems can be identified in the early years, with children and youth from low-income households at increased risk for child mental health problems.
Age at Onset of First Symptom of Full Psychiatric Disorder, by Age 21
Source: Preventing Mental, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People, 2009. National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, of the National Academies
Mental Health Facts: Obstacles to Access and Quality in Mental Healthcare
- Several federal commissions and workgroups federal task forces have documented the need for improved and expanded mental health services for children and youth.
It is estimated that less than 1 in 5 of these children receive the appropriate needed treatment
- Only 15% of youths who had difficulties had parents that actively talked to a health care provider or school staff about their child’s emotional or behavioral difficulties.
There is not adequate financial support for quality services to prevent and treat mental health problems of children and youth. Many child mental health services are not covered by managed care payers. In 2007, 3.1 million youths, (12.5 percent of 12 to 17 year olds) received treatment or counseling for problems with behavior or emotional disturbances in specialty mental health settings (which include inpatient and outpatient care).
Unmet Mental Health Needs of U.S. Children by Insurance Status
Source: Katoka, S; Zhang, L.; & Wells, K. (2002). Unmet need for mental health care among U.S. Children: Variation by ethnicity and insurance status. American Journal of Psychiatry. 159 (9), 1548-1555.
Mental Health Facts: Effective Treatment and Prevention Exists
Clear windows of opportunity are available to prevent MEB disorders and related problems before they occur. An intervention before a disorder manifests itself is possible and offers the best opportunity to protect young people. Effective prevention includes strengthening families by targeting problems, strengthening individuals by building resilience and skills, preventing specific disorders by screening individuals at risk, promoting facts about mental health in schools and promoting child mental health through health care and community programs. The key to most approaches is to identify risks (biological, psychological and social factors) that may increase a child’s risk of MEB disorders.
Interventions by Developmental Phase