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Mental Illness Affects 17 Million Under 18: CMI Children’s Mental Health Report

May 5, 2015

Last night at the inaugural Change Maker Awards, the Child Mind Institute released its first annual Children’s Mental Health Report. Founder and President Harold S. Koplewicz, MD, mentioned just a few of the findings:

  • An estimated 17.1 million US children and adolescents now have, or have had in the past, a diagnosable psychiatric disorder
  • Two thirds of children with a mental illness do not get treatment
  • Anxiety is the most prevalent mental illness among children
  • 80% of kids with an anxiety disorder don’t get treatment
  • The cost to society of untreated mental illness in young people is hundreds of billions of dollars a year


“These numbers defy the imagination,” Dr. Koplewicz said. “They are unacceptable.” But they do make it more clear what we can do to change things for the better. Dr. Koplewicz hit on three major takeaways. “Access to care is a huge problem,” he said, “and public awareness is lacking.” Furthermore, “we do far too little research into psychiatric disorders in kids, particularly in the youngest people, where intervening can be so transformative.”

The report synthesizes the most reliable data available on the prevalence of mental illness in children and adolescents, the gap between the need and care, and the efficacy of treatment. All numbers include sourcing. The report attempts to gather what we know—but also call attention to what we don’t.

Dr. Koplewicz pledged to continue producing the report annually in the hope that “it will raise awareness both of the magnitude of the problem and of the clear benefits of confronting it head on,” including the “research dollars, training programs, and public education efforts we need to bring these kids out of the shadows.”

But childhood mental illness is not just a public health problem—it’s a very personal, family-based struggle, too. We want to assume that our kids are healthy, so sometimes we look the other way when there are signs of trouble, Dr. Koplewicz tells Web MD in an interview about the Children’s Mental Health Report. “But this is really one of those times when looking the other way can be detrimental to the child.”

Tagged with: Big Numbers, Mental Health