Children’s mental health services need to substantially increase

July 20, 2021

An estimated one in eight children in high-income countries have mental disorders at any given time, causing symptoms and impairment, therefore requiring treatment. Yet even in countries such as Canada, most children with mental disorders are not receiving services for these conditions.

These were the conclusions of a systematic review and meta-analysis by the Children’s Health Policy Centre recently published in the journal Evidence-Based Mental Health.

The team looked at high-quality studies on 12 of the most common childhood mental health conditions. Overall prevalence of any childhood mental disorder — before the pandemic — was 12.7% with anxiety, ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, substance use, conduct disorder and depression being the most common. Among children with mental disorders, only 44.2% received any services for these conditions.

The paper discusses the implications of these findings, particularly the need to substantially increase public investments in children’s mental health services. Most important is ensuring that all children with mental health conditions can access effective interventions — when they need them. The needs are likely even more urgent during the COVID-19 pandemic. But addressing the pre-pandemic levels of need is a crucial starting point.

The entire paper is available here.