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2016 Children’s Mental Health Report

Mental health disorders are the most common health issues faced by our nation’s school-aged children. One in five children suffers from a mental health or learning disorder, and 80% of chronic mental disorders begin in childhood. There is an urgent need to identify the signs of these conditions early in life if children are to get the care and support they need to thrive.¹
Children struggling with mental health and learning disorders are at risk for poor outcomes in school and in life, and outdated approaches to discipline are only making matters worse. Instead of putting kids further at risk, schools should be identifying and supporting at-risk children. A widely deployed, integrated system of evidence-supported, school-based mental health and preventive services is needed. If we want to help our children and our schools, we cannot wait.

This report examines:

Negative effects (suspension, dropout) of mental health disorders in school

Early intervention and prevention programs

School-wide behavior plans and targeted interventions

Schools present an important opportunity for recognizing early signs of mental health problems in children. K-12 enrollment in the United States is around 55 million,² providing our best chance to reach the 17.1 million young people who will be affected by mental health disorders before the age of 18.³ Working together, parents, educators and professionals can ensure that all children reap the benefits of education and receive the support they deserve.


¹ Merikangas, K.R., He, J., Burstein, M., Swanson, S.A., Avenevoli, S., Cui, L., Benjet, C., Georgiades, K., Swendsen, J., (2010). Lifetime Prevalence of Mental Disorders in US Adolescents: Results from the National Comorbidity Study-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 49(10): 980-989. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2010.05.017

² U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2015). Digest of Education Statistics. Retrieved from: https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=65

³ Child Mind Institute. 2015 Children’s Mental Health Report.