Almost half of children with mental disorders receive no help

April 22, 2024

Given the high burden of childhood mental disorders, all children with these conditions should have rapid access to effective treatments. Access to mental health services is also a fundamental right of all children, as evidenced by Canada and many other countries declaring their obligation to provide such services. To understand how well Canada is meeting its obligation to these children, The Children’s Health Policy Centre conducted an analysis to identify how many children with mental disorders received interventions for these conditions. We did so using data from our review on the prevalence of childhood mental disorders, which was originally published in Evidence Based Mental Health. 

Eight of the 14 high-quality epidemiological studies that we reviewed provided data on services children with mental disorders received. While all the data were high quality, each study defined and evaluated services somewhat differently. For example, some covered only mental health care, such as psychotherapy or psychiatric medications, while others covered a wide range of interventions, such as self-help groups and probation services. We also found gaps in the data, such as missing details on specific types of psychotherapy or medication and the duration of services. Our analysis nevertheless revealed that for children who were coping with mental disorders, only 44.2% — or fewer than half — received any services for these conditions.

For more information, see Vol. 16, No. 2 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.