Children and Families

Early identification and treatment of mental disorders in children and adolescents is critical to their ability to achieve success in school, in work, and in family life. But, indications are that the majority of children with mental disorders fail to be identified, lack access to treatment or supports, and needlessly suffer throughout their lives from the symptoms of their illness as well as the sting of stigma. 

Mental disorders are more prevalent among children and youth than once believed, with recent studies supporting the observations of adults with mental illnesses that their symptoms began early in life.

About 20 percent of U.S. youth aged 13 to 18 are affected during their lifetime by some type of mental disorder to an extent that they have difficulty functioning, according to a National Institute of Mental Health survey published in the October 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Overall, nearly half of the sample of 10,000 teens reported having met diagnostic criteria for at least one disorder over a lifetime, and about 20 percent reported they suffered from a mental disorder with symptoms severe enough to impair their daily lives

Younger children may also experience mental health challenges that impact early learning, social interactions, and the overall well-being of their families. It is estimated that between 9% and 14% of children from birth to 5 years of age have social and emotional problems that negatively affect their functioning and development, reports the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). 

Without adequate treatment and supports, emotional disturbance in children and adolescents can lead to school failure, juvenile justice system involvement, and suicide. 

Providing effective age-appropriate services and supports to children and their families, however, has immediate as well as lifelong benefits. Children who receive effective age-appropriate services and supports are more likely to complete high school, have fewer contacts with law enforcement, and improve their ability to live independently.

Following is a brief list of general resources to help families learn more about emotional disturbance/mental disorders and their treatment.