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Mental health symptoms in school-aged children in four communities (


A CDC study examined mental health symptoms in four different U.S. school districts during 2014–2018. Based on teacher and parent reports, about 1 in 6 students had enough behavioral or emotional symptoms and impairment to be diagnosed with a childhood mental disorder; rates varied among the different sites. Schools, communities, and healthcare providers can use this information to plan for the healthcare and school service needs of children and adolescents with mental disorders. Screening, identifying, and referring children and adolescents to effective treatments can help prevent or lower the negative effects of mental disorders

  • Overall, 1 in 6 students had enough symptoms and impairment to meet the criteria for one or more childhood mental disorders.
  • Anxiety disorders were the most commonly reported mental disorders, followed by oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Risk for disorders varied greatly from community to community.
  • Based on the screen done by teachers, between 1 in 6 and 1 in 3 students were at high risk for a mental disorder, depending on which community they were from. Teachers identified a higher percentage of boys, non-Hispanic Black students, and students receiving free or reduced-price lunch as high risk for mental disorders than their peers at all or most sites, but there were generally no demographic differences in the percentage of students who met the criteria for a mental disorder based on parent report. This means that estimating effects of race or income on symptoms gave different results depending on the way that symptoms were examined.

The Project to Learn About Youth-Mental Health (PLAY–MH) was a school-based study designed to estimate how many K-12 students had specific mental disorders. Information was collected from 2014–2018 in four different school districts in four U.S. states (Colorado, Florida, Ohio, and South Carolina). The school districts were in urban, suburban, and rural areas, varied in size, and included students from different socio-economic and racial and ethnic backgrounds.

To read more of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's article,  please click here.

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