Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week: Insights And Statistics

Medically reviewed by Kimberly L Brownridge , LPC, NCC, BCPC
Updated May 17, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Content Warning: Please be advised that the following article contains information about childhood trauma, abuse, suicide, and other potentially triggering subjects. Read with discretion. 

The first week of May, from May 1st to May 7th, is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week in the US. The American Psychological Association recognizes the National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day on May 7th each year. Understanding youth mental health can be beneficial in reducing stigmas surrounding mental health conditions and symptoms in those under 18. 

According to the CDC, 1 in 6 children aged 2-8 years has a mental health condition. Of those, over 50% received treatment for their symptoms in 2019. Additional studies show that at least 1 in 5 youth aged 9-17 also experience symptoms of a diagnosable mental health condition. 

Childhood Mental Health Conditions 

Children under nine and adolescents from ten to 17 years of age can experience various mental health conditions. Understanding these conditions and how they may present in children can be beneficial in receiving prompt and accurate diagnosis and treatment. 

The most common mental health conditions for those under 18 and their estimated percentages in the US include the following: 

  • Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): 9.8% of children 

  • Anxiety Disorders: 9.4% of children 

  • Behavioral Disorders: 8.9% of children

  • Depressive Disorders: 4.4% of children 

Several mental health conditions can be diagnosed in childhood which may not be present in adulthood, including the following: 

Signs Of Mental Health Concerns In Children And Teens

National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day can include understanding the signs and symptoms often present in those under 18 with a mental health condition. As symptoms can differ from adult presentations, detecting a mental health problem may be challenging for parents, caregivers, and childcare workers. Warning signs of mental health conditions in children include the following. 

Decreased Interest In Activities

A child's mental health condition may become apparent through a decreased interest in typical childhood activities, such as playing with toys, socializing with their age group, physical activity, a desire to learn, and affectionate behavior with families. The child may appear dejected, cry often, or act aggressively toward caregivers. 

Intellectual Delays 

Some children experiencing an intellectual disability may experience delays in cognitive function, social skills, or emotional control. For example, autistic children may be non-verbal, meaning they do not verbally speak in accordance with their developmental stage. Children might also struggle with school activities such as reading, writing, or mathematics. Common causes of intellectual or developmental delays include: 

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) 

  • Dyslexia Or Dyscalculia 

  • Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) 

  • Down Syndrome 

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome 

  • Cerebral Palsy 

  • Language Disorders

  • Intellectual Disabilities

  • Hearing Or Vision Loss 

Emotional Sensitivity

If you notice your child often crying, yelling, or expressing emotions in ways that harm themselves or those around them, it may be a sign of a mood disorder or mental health concern. Although some children may be more sensitive to emotional input, emotional outbursts could signify a benefit in observing future behaviors. 

Inappropriate Or Sudden Behavioral Changes 

More than two-thirds of children report a traumatic event by age 16. For this reason, keeping an eye out for signs a child has experienced a traumatic event can be crucial. 

If a child has witnessed or experienced abuse from an adult, they may start bringing up topics that could seem inappropriate to a caregiver. They might also show signs of fear of their body, distrust of certain adults, or mood swings in the presence of certain adults or locations. 

Children might not always report trauma. However, if they do, investigate the source seriously and bring your child to their pediatrician for referral or examination. If you suspect your child has experienced a traumatic event, having them speak to a childhood therapist or counselor can be beneficial. 

If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 for support. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text “START” to 88788. You can also use the online chat. If you’re a teen or child experiencing or witnessing abuse of any kind from a family or caregiver, reach out to the Child Help Hotline at 1-800-422-4453 or use the online chat feature.

Physical Or Emotional Conflict

If a child physically harms themselves, you, or a loved one, it could indicate an underlying mental health condition. Additionally, children who yell, insult, or put down others in their lives could be experiencing symptoms related to a childhood disorder, another condition, or concern. 

Talk Of Suicide Or Self-Harm 

If a child or teen under 18 has talked of suicide or self-harm, reach out for support immediately. If you or your child is experiencing thoughts or urges of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text 988 to talk to someone over SMS. They are available 24/7 to offer support. 

Self-harm prevention may be possible through school programs, counseling, or residential treatment centers for children and adolescents. Talk to your child about the dangers of self-harm and offer positive mental health alternatives, such as art supplies, a cold bath, or distraction through a movie night or family activity. 

How To Celebrate Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week 

During children’s mental health awareness week or on National Children's Mental Health Day, you may celebrate by spending time with your children, checking in on them, and educating yourself on mental health concerns that occur in those under 18. Spread the word by posting on social media, talking to those in your organization, or organizing a community event to raise awareness for children. 

You can also interact with the following organizations that work year-round to provide support to underprivileged children: 

2022 Statistics On Youth Mental Health 

Understanding the facts behind youth mental health and suicide prevention may allow you to learn the importance of catching concerns early on and supporting the de-stigmatization of mental health worldwide. Below are a few up-to-date statistics on child mental health

  • Over 2.5 million youth live with major depressive disorder, which has increased in number by 197,000 since 2021 

  • The highest rate of childhood depression in the US is seen in Wyoming

  • 39.7% of American youth received treatment for depression in 2022

  • In 2020, mental health-related visits to the emergency department for children increased by 24% from previous years 

  • From 2007 to 2016, the number of child psychiatrists in the US increased at a rate of over 21%

  • In 2019, over 13% of children aged 5-17 received mental health treatment 

Additional studies on effective therapeutic modalities for children found that cognitive-behavioral therapy proves highly effective in treating childhood anxiety disorders and depression. 

Counseling Options

Witnessing any mental health challenges your child may experience can be challenging for parents and caregivers. Learning more about childhood mental health during Children’s Mental Health Awareness Month can be valuable in understanding your children and receiving support. Counseling is also available for parents and caregivers who feel they could use someone to talk to about their family struggles, personal mental health concerns, or life stressors. A therapist can be a compassionate, validating support system. 

If you find that family life presents a barrier to accessing traditional in-person therapy, you can also take advantage of online counseling, which offers flexible and affordable plans for parents. You will only require a personal smart device like a cellphone and a solid internet connection to your sessions. Additionally, studies indicate that online counseling is as effective as traditional counseling methods in treating symptoms related to prolonged family stress due to family mental health conditions.  

If you are over 18, you can reach out to a counselor through a platform like BetterHelp. Or, if you want to support your adolescent child aged 12-19 in signing up for online therapy, they can try TeenCounseling with parental approval. Both platforms offer over 20,000 licensed therapists specializing in various areas of mental wellness. 

Takeaway 

Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week is a week dedicated to educating about youth mental health and pointing awareness to resources for children throughout the US and worldwide. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can support youth mental health or you want to find support for yourself, consider reaching out to a therapist for further insight and guidance. 

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