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What’s happening in children’s mental health?

National Children’s Mental Health Awareness DayMay 8th is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. Learn how CDC and other federal agencies and partners work to improve the mental health of US children.

It is estimated that as many as 1 out of 5 children experience a mental disorder in a given year, and an estimated $247 billion is spent each year on treatment and management of childhood mental disorders. Because of their impact on children, families, and communities, children's mental disorders are an important public health issue. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collaborates with partners to learn more about children's mental health, understand the causes of mental disorders, and promote effective prevention strategies.

Partnering to promote mental health

Partnering to understand the impact

  • CDC is starting the Project to Learn about Youth - Mental Health (PLAY-MH). This is a follow up of the Project to Learn about ADHD in Youth, one of the largest community-based, systematic studies of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the United States. CDC is now working with the University of South Carolina and the University of Colorado Denver to learn about a larger group of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders and treatment in children. Read more about the PLAY studies here.
  • CDC recently published the first report on children's mental disorders compiling data from different federal sources together with SAMHSA, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Read more about the report on children's mental health here.
Logo: National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day, May 8, 2014, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Partnering to improve prevention and care

  • CDC is funding five state health departments in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Washington to implement Essentials for Childhood strategies aimed to prevent child abuse and neglect, increase safe, stable and nurturing relationships, and reduce oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder.
  • CDC collaborates with states to better understand the patterns of childhood ADHD diagnosis and treatment. CDC is participating in the Georgia Interagency Director's Team to support the development of a more integrated, and effective, service delivery system for children and adolescents who need behavioral health services.
  • CDC is partnering with the University of Michigan to evaluate the effectiveness of preventing suicide in adolescents who are at increased risk for suicidal behavior using the Links to Enhancing Teens' Connectedness (LET's CONNECT) program.
  • CDC is working with state, US territory, and national partners on the Learn the Signs. Act Early. campaign to provide parents, early care and education providers, and doctors and nurses with materials and messages that identify developmental concerns early in a child's life. The “Learn the Signs. Act Early” program promotes early childhood programs working together so children with autism or other developmental disabilities, including social, emotional or behavioral disabilities, can be identified early and get the services and support they and their families need.
  • CDC is sponsoring, along with other agencies and organization, the Institute of Medicine (IOM)'s Forum on Promoting Children's Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Health to connect prevention, treatment, and implementation sciences with settings where children are seen and cared for, and to create systems that address children's needs in ways that are effective and affordable.
  • CDC is participating in the collaborative launch of Birth to Five: Watch Me Thrive!, a coordinated effort to encourage developmental and behavioral screening and support for children, families, and the providers who care for them. Other collaborating agencies include the Administration for Children and Families, Administration for Community Living, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare, Health Resources and Services Administration, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and SAMHSA at the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Office of Special Education Programs at the Department of Education.

Screenshot from Children's Mental Health Disorders videos

Children Mental Health Disorders - a journey for parents and children. Watch the video.

Partnering to share information

  • CDC contributes to MentalHealth.gov, which provides one-stop access to information from the U.S. government on mental health and mental health problems. Using information from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), SAMHSA, and FindYouthInfo.gov (a collaborative effort of 19 different agencies or offices), MentalHealth.gov aims to educate and guide the public, professionals, and communities.
  • CDC partners with public health practice and resource centers to ensure that evidence-based information about children's mental health reaches key audiences including health professionals and other service providers, educators, and families who have children with mental disorders. Two key resource centers that provide this important information are the National Resource Center on ADHD and the Tourette Syndrome Association.

Partnering to improve health outcomes across the lifespan and across the globe

CDC continues to strengthen collaborations with key agencies to improve children's mental health across the lifespan and across the globe. In addition to efforts focused on children, CDC also works on mental health issues among adults and in other countries. These activities focus on:

  • health related quality of life,
  • mental illness and chronic disease,
  • violence,
  • disaster and environmental mental health,
  • women's mental health before, during, and after pregnancy, and
  • mental health promotion and prevention of mental illness in the community.

Read more about CDC's work on mental health here.

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