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Did you know... research indicates that the prevalence of mental health issues in California youth is increasing while percentage of kids receiving assistance has declined since 2010. There are various factors contributing to this problem, and the overwhelming surge of electronics isn't exactly helping. From iPads and iPhones to television and video games, children are imprisoned in a virtual world. Ultimately, exacerbating their emotional, psychological, social, academic, and athletic problems.

In order to mitigate this problem which is turning into an epidemic, children need to be provided with an environment where they can regularly:

1) engage in social interaction 

2) participate in physical exercise 

3) develop a skill that can enhance their self-esteem

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Did you know that most schools do not screen students for mental health issues? Even when students are successfully identified, community-based mental health treatment options are not always sufficient in providing the help needed.

In 2014, the federal government announced $48 million in new grants to support teachers, schools and communities in recognizing and responding to mental health issues. Still, many students’ mental health problems continue to go unidentified and untreated. In fact, just 38 percent of youth with a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder receive treatment services, which is a significant number considering that 50% percent of mental health disorders begin before age 14, and 75% before age 24. Ultimately, affecting the learning and school experience for all children.

Other disorders of childhood and adolescence that, if untreated can have a marked effect on students’ ability to learn and function in the school environment include:

  • 75% of social phobia manifests by age 15

  • 75% of separation anxiety disorder manifests by age 10

  • 75% of oppositional defiant disorder manifests by age 14

  • 75% of ADHD manifests by age 8

Anxiety disorders like social phobia can make students twice as likely to drop out or fail a grade; ADHD, mood and anxiety symptoms and disruptive behavior at age 6 predict math and reading achievement at age 17; and combinations of mental health disorders (including substance abuse) are predictors for low levels of lifetime educational attainment.

Facts about mental disorders in U.S. children

  • ADHD, behavior problems, anxiety, and depression are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children

    • 9.4% of children aged 2-17 years (approximately 6.1 million) have received an ADHD diagnosis.

    • 7.4% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.5 million) have a diagnosed behavior problem.

    • 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety.

    • 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have diagnosed depression.

  • Some of these conditions commonly occur together. For example:

    • Having another disorder is most common in children with depression: about 3 in 4 children aged 3-17 years with depression also have anxiety (73.8%) and almost 1 in 2 have behavior problems (47.2%).

    • For children aged 3-17 years with anxiety, more than 1 in 3 also have behavior problems (37.9%) and about 1 in 3 also have depression (32.3%).

    • For children aged 3-17 years with behavior problems, more than 1 in 3 also have anxiety (36.6%) and about 1 in 5 also have depression (20.3%).

  • Depression and anxiety have increased over time

    • “Ever having been diagnosed with either anxiety or depression” among children aged 6–17 years increased from 5.4% in 2003 to 8% in 2007 and to 8.4% in 2011–2012.

    • “Ever having been diagnosed with anxiety” increased from 5.5% in 2007 to 6.4% in 2011–2012.

    • “Ever having been diagnosed with depression” did not change between 2007 (4.7%) and 2011-2012 (4.9%)


Improving the mental health of California's students is one of the main objectives of the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA). CalMHSA's statewide prevention and early intervention (PEI) activities, funded by California counties using resources from the Mental Health Services Act of 2004 (Proposition 63), promote a range of strategies and activities to help California's K–12 public schools better address the mental health needs of students. As part of an ongoing examination of CalMHSA PEI initiatives, RAND surveyed K–12 principals to take an inventory of student mental health in California's public schools, both in terms of the mental health and wellness needs of students and the types of programs schools are most often implementing to help students. California K–12 school principals responded about the severity of a range of problems related to students' mental health:

  • More than three-quarters of the principals who responded to the survey—across all school levels—cited students' “social, emotional, and mental health” as a moderate or severe problem at their schools.

  • More than 60 percent of high school principals and nearly one-half of middle school principals reported “student depression” as a moderate or severe problem among their students.

  • One-quarter of high school principals and 16 percent of middle school principals reported “student attempted suicide” as a moderate or severe problem.

  • High school principals indicated significant concern about alcohol, drug, and tobacco use, with more than one-half of high school principals reporting alcohol and drug use as a moderate or severe problem.

Other moderate or severe problems cited by one-third to one-half of principals across all levels included disruptive behavior, harassment and bullying, and family violence and abuse.