May is Children’s Mental Health Month

May is Children’s Mental Health Month, and a time to recognize that mentally healthy children are more likely to have a positive quality of life and to function well at home, in school, and in their communities.

“Mental health is important to overall health,” said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Heath at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. “Mental health in childhood means reaching developmental and emotional milestones, and learning healthy social skills and how to cope when there are problems. Many children occasionally have fears and worries, or even occasional disruptive behaviors. If symptoms are severe and persistent, and interfere with school, home, or play activities, you should talk with your doctor or a mental health professional. Early intervention is the key to leading a healthy life.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the more common mental disorders diagnosed symptoms often start in early childhood, although some disorders may develop during the teenage years. The diagnosis is often made in the school years and sometimes earlier. However, some children with a mental disorder may not be recognized or diagnosed as having one.

  • Rates of mental disorders change with age
    • Diagnoses of depression and anxiety are more common with increased age.
    • 7.4% of children aged 3 to 17 years (approximately 4.5 million) have a diagnosed behavior problem.
    • 7.1% of children aged 3 to 17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety.
    • 3.2% of children aged 3 to 17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have diagnosed depression.
    • Behavior problems are more common among children aged 6 to 11 years than children younger or older.
  • Treatment rates vary among different mental disorders
    • Nearly 8 in 10 children (78.1%) aged 3 to 17 years with depression received treatment.
    • 6 in 10 children (59.3%) aged 3 to 17 years with anxiety received treatment.
    • More than 5 in 10 children (53.5%) aged 3 to 17 years with behavior disorders received treatment.

During May, let’s focus on what each of us can do to promote mental health in children

  • Parents: You know your child best. Talk to your child’s healthcare professional if you have concerns about the way your child behaves at home, in school, or with friends.
  • Youth: It is just as important to take care of your mental health as it is to take care of your physical health. If you are angry, worried or sad, don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings and reach out to a parent, caregiver or trusted adult.  If you have a mental health challenge or illness, remember, you are not your illness. You are an awesome individual who has an illness that effects your brain.
  • Healthcare professionals: Early diagnosis and treatment are very important.
  • Teachers/School administrators: Early identification is important. Work with families and healthcare professionals if you have concerns about the mental health of a child in your school. This toolkit can help you:

There are resources available to help you and your child and treat children’s mental illnesses. They include:

  • The Nebraska Family Helpline at 1-888-866-8660, can help parents and other callers 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • The Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN) can be reached at 1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673.)
  • If you or a loved one are feeling overwhelmed with emotions such as sadness, depression, anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or someone else, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) (English) and 1-888-628-9454 (Spanish).
  • The National Runaway Safeline can be reached at 1-800-RUNAWAY (1-800-786-2929.)
  • The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids can be reached at 1-855-DRUGFREE (1-855-378-4373)


If, like many parents, you’re struggling to talk to your child about COVID-19, tips can be found here: