Child & Adolescent ServicesFacts on Children’s Mental Health in America

Did you know that four million children and adolescents in this country suffer from a serious mental disorder that causes significant functional impairments at home, at school and with peers?

The reports by the U.S. Surgeon General and the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health offer great hope to the millions of children and adolescents living with mental illness and their families. Through appropriate identification, evaluation, and treatment, children and adolescents living with mental illness can lead productive lives. They can achieve success in school, in work and in family life. Nonetheless, the overwhelming majority of children with mental disorders fail to be identified, lack access to treatment or supports and thus have a lower quality of life. Stigma persists and millions of young people in this country are left behind.

Prevalence of Child and Adolescent Mental Disorders

Four million children and adolescents in this country suffer from a serious mental disorder that causes significant functional impairments at home, at school and with peers. Of children ages 9 to 17, 21 percent have a diagnosable mental or addictive disorder that causes at least minimal impairment.

Half of all lifetime cases of mental disorders begin by age 14. Despite effective treatments, there are long delays, sometimes decades, between the first onset of symptoms and when people seek and receive treatment. An untreated mental disorder can lead to a more severe, more difficult to treat illness and to the development of co-occurring mental illnesses.

In any given year, only 20 percent of children with mental disorders are identified and receive mental health services.

Consequences of Untreated Mental Disorders in Children and Adolescents

Suicide
Suicide is the third leading cause of death in youth ages 15 to 24. More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza and chronic lung disease combined. Over 90 percent of children and adolescents who commit suicide have a mental disorder.

In the United States in the year 2002, almost 4,300 young people ages 10 to 24 died by suicide.

States spend nearly $1 billion annually on medical costs associated with completed suicides and suicide attempts by youth up to 20 years of age.

School Failure
Approximately 50% of students age 14 and older who are living with a mental illness drop out of high school. This is the highest dropout rate of any disability group.

Juvenile and Criminal Justice Involvement
Youth with unidentified and untreated mental disorders also tragically end up in jails and prisons. According to a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health—the largest ever undertaken—an alarming 65 percent of boys and 75 percent of girls in juvenile detention have at least one mental illness.10 We are incarcerating youth living with mental illness, some as young as eight years old, rather than identifying their conditions early and intervening with appropriate treatment.

Higher Health Care Utilization
When children with untreated mental disorders become adults, they use more health care services and incur higher health care costs than other adults. Left untreated, childhood disorders are likely to persist and lead to a downward spiral of school failure, limited or non-existent employment opportunities and poverty in adulthood. No other illnesses harm so many children so seriously.

Early Identification, Evaluation and Treatment are Essential to Recovery and Resiliency
Research shows that early identification and intervention can minimize the long-term disability of mental disorders.

Mental disorders in children and adolescents are real and can be effectively treated, especially when identified and treated early.

Research has yielded important advances in the development of effective treatment for children and adolescents living with mental illness. Early identification and treatment prevents the loss of critical developmental years that cannot be recovered and helps youth avoid years of unnecessary suffering.

Early and effective mental health treatment can prevent a significant proportion of delinquent and violent youth from future violence and crime. It also enables children and adolescents to succeed in school, to develop socially and to fully experience the developmental opportunities of childhood. 


The Institute of Living offers a variety of services for children and adolescents, including educational programs, day treatment, outpatient, and inpatient services, including:

Consultation Services

For more information or referrals, follow the links above, or contact:

The Institute of Living Assessment Center
24-hours a day, seven days a week
(860) 545-7200 (general information, option #1; referrals, option #2)
Toll-free: (800) 673-2411