2016 Children’s Mental Health Report

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Mental Health Disorders Are Common

The prevalence of mental health disorders among young people in this country approximates that of adults, and their impact may be even greater in youth because they strike during critical periods of educational, emotional and social development.

17.1 million young people have or have had a diagnosable psychiatric disorder. Put another way, one out of every five children in the US meets criteria for a major mental disorder.

Fifty percent of mental health disorders begin before age 14 and 75% before age 24, affecting the learning and school experience for all children.

These are disorders of childhood and adolescence that, if untreated, will have a marked effect on students’ ability to learn and function in the school environment. For instance:

  • 75% of social phobia manifests by age 15
  • 75% of separation anxiety disorder manifests by age 10
  • 75% of oppositional defiant disorder manifests by age 14
  • 75% of ADHD manifests by age 8

Anxiety disorders like social phobia can make students twice as likely to drop out or fail a grade; ADHD, mood and anxiety symptoms and disruptive behavior at age 6 predict math and reading achievement at age 17; and combinations of mental health disorders (including substance abuse) are predictors for low levels of lifetime educational attainment.


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

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Stein, M.B.; Kean, Y.M. (2000). Disability and quality of life in social phobia: epidemiologic findings. American Journal of Psychiatry. 157(10): 1606-1613. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.157.10.1606

Breslau, J., Miller, E., Breslau, N., Bohnert, K., Lucia, V., & Schweitzer, J. (2009). The Impact of Early Behavior Disturbances on Academic Achievement in High School. Pediatrics. 123(6), 1472–1476. http://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2008-1406

McLeod, J. D., Uemura, R., & Rohrman, S. (2012). Adolescent Mental Health, Behavior Problems, and Academic Achievement. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 53(4), 482–497. http://doi.org/10.1177/0022146512462888