Childhood mental disorders create a heavy burden

April 15, 2024

Having a child with a mental disorder can have considerable consequences for families. For example, one study found that parents of children with mental disorders were significantly more likely to reduce their work hours or to end their employment altogether, compared with parents of children with physical health conditions. Parents of children with mental disorders were also significantly more likely to spend more than four hours per week arranging for child care, compared with parents of children with physical health conditions. Financial costs can also add up. For example, parents may have to miss work to address their children’s mental health needs, or they may face out-of-pocket expenses for medications or for psychosocial interventions that are not publicly funded.

Beyond these high individual burdens, childhood mental conditions also have significant consequences for society. Because these disorders are the leading cause of childhood disability, they come with steep costs in lost human potential. These disorders also come with large expenditures across multiple public sectors, including health care, education, and social and justice services. Costs are particularly high when children do not receive needed treatments or receive them in a timely way, such that mental health problems worsen and become needlessly entrenched, even continuing into adulthood. Yet effective treatment approaches for the majority of these disorders already exist and many of these treatments have been shown to be cost-effective. For more information, see Vol. 16, No. 2 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.