Mental Health Treatment Increases Among Children, Study Finds

A melancholy child walks in the sunshineAccording to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 13% of children ages 8 to 15 experience a diagnosable mental health issue each year. ADHD is the most common diagnosis, with 8.5% of children experiencing this issue. Major depression takes second place, affecting 2.7% of kids each year. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, more children are receiving help for mental health issues.

More Children Receiving Help for Mental Health Challenges

To explore how many children receive mental health treatment, researchers culled data from government surveys conducted between 1996 and 2012. Between 1996 and 1998, about 9% of U.S. children between the ages of 6 and 17 sought mental health treatment. By 2012, the figure had increased to 13%.

Many child advocates and parents have expressed concerns that children’s normal behavior is increasingly stigmatized, or even that children are over-medicated or over-treated. To assess whether this is the case, researchers explored the severity of issues for which children received treatment. They relied on parent rankings on a standardized scale, so their assessment explored the parents’ subjective assessment of the child’s symptoms, not the symptoms’ objective severity.

They found that children with relatively minor problems accounted for a large portion of the treatment increase. In 2012, 4.2 million children with minor issues were in treatment, compared to 2.7 million between 1996 and 1998. Among children with severe problems, 26% sought mental health assistance in the 1990s, compared to 44% today. While this marks an improvement, it suggests that the majority of children with severe problems still don’t receive the help they need. In a hopeful sign for children’s mental health, though, researchers found that the rate of children with severe mental health symptoms dropped from 13% in the 1990s to 11% today.

Though concerns about over-medication of children may persist, barriers to care also persist. Mental health stigma, financial barriers, time constraints, and difficulty finding a quality provider can delay care, or even altogether foreclose the possibility of therapy.


  1. Any disorder among children. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  1. Norton, A. (2015, May 21). More kids getting mental health treatment. Retrieved from

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  • kelsea


    May 29th, 2015 at 1:04 PM

    This is great news! After so many years of feeling like the odd bird out it was nice to actually go into counseling and work with someone who helped me better understand the things that I felt. I am sure that there are many other teens just like me who, eventually after receiving help, will begin to feel the same way.

  • matilda


    May 30th, 2015 at 9:29 AM

    At first read this does make me happy because the thought of especially a child trying to deal with these very real issues on their own could be quite alarming. I do hope however that this is due to more minds being opened to the possibilities that therapy can provide and not simply that society as a whole is putting so much more pressure on our children today that this is causing more problems than what would have been evident in the past.

  • James


    May 31st, 2015 at 1:28 PM

    It is such a shame when the universal conclusion is that a child might benefit from some sort of therapy but they are prohibited form ever being able to seek that out because finances and health insurance is not going to help them pay for the treatment.

    Our children really do deserve so much better than that.

  • Margaret


    June 2nd, 2015 at 3:40 AM

    I do think that this is a good thing but you would want to have someone very specialized and well trained working with your child, or at least I would anyway. I think that too many general doctors try to step outside of the bounds of what their training actually is and this alone can be very dangerous for anyone, much less a child.

  • campbell


    June 8th, 2015 at 4:17 PM

    I am happy about this only IF this doesn’t mean that the child will then be labeled and will never be able to escape that label later on.

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