U.S. Mental Health Facts on Children

Revised: May 21, 2014


  • Mental health problems affect one in every five young people at any given time (U.S. Department of Health And Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services).
  • An estimated two-thirds of all young people with mental health problems are not getting the help they need (U.S. Department of Health And Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services).
  • Less than one-third of the children under age 18 with a serious disturbance receive any mental health services. Often the services they receive are inappropriate (Children's Defense Fund).
  • Recent studies show that, at any given time, as many as one in every 33 children may have clinical depression. The rate of depression among adolescents may be as high as one in eight (Center for Mental Health Services).
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds and the sixth leading cause of death for One in five 15 year olds (American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry).
  • Anorexia affects one in every 100 to 200 adolescent girls and a much smaller number of boys (U.S. Department of Health And Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services).
  • Reported rates of bulimia nervosa vary from one to three out of 100 young people (U.S. Department of Health And Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services).
  • Studies suggest that autism spectrum disorder affects seven to 14 of every 10,000 children (U.S. Department of Health And Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services).
  • Schizophrenia is rare in children under 12, but occurs in about three out of every 1,000 adolescents (U.S. Department of Health And Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services).
  • It is estimated that between 118,700 and 186,600 youths who are involved in the juvenile justice system have at least one mental disorder (Responding To The Needs Of Youth In The Juvenile Justice System - Cocozza, J.J. The National Coalition for the Mentally Ill in the Criminal Justice System, November 1992).
  • According to a 1994 OJJDP study of juveniles' response to health screenings conducted at the admission of juvenile facilities, 73 percent of juveniles reported having mental health problems and 57 percent reported having prior mental health treatment or hospitalization (Conditions Of Confinement: Juvenile Detention And Correctional Facilities, OJJDP, August 1994).
  • Of the 100,000 teenagers in juvenile detention, estimates indicate that 60 percent have behavioral, mental or emotional problems (Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1994).