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The majority of children and adolescents experience positive mental health, and it is a normal part of development for them to experience a wide range of emotions. However, a significant and growing number of youth experience mental health issues that interfere with their academic performance, social development, and health.

In fact, the Pew Research Center found that 70 percent of US teens say anxiety and depression is a major problem among people their age in the community where they live. Too many of these youth lack the information, skills, and support needed to understand and navigate these experiences.

In the COVID-19 pandemic, children and teens are experiencing even more stress. A new Gallup poll finds that nearly 3 in 10 parents report that their child is already experiencing harm to their emotional or mental health in the pandemic's social distancing and closures. Mental health education is important now more than ever.

Racial disparities in reported well-being exist among high school students in the Commonwealth. In 2018, Black children between the ages of 5 and 12 committed suicide at a higher rate than white children, and more than a third of elementary school-aged suicides involved Black children (Black Mental Health Alliance). The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected Black, Indigenous and People of Color. This public health and economic crisis will likely lead to increased stress on children of color and their mental health.

31.5%

Percentage of US high school students who have experienced periods of persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness

CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey 2017

31.2%

Percentage of Massachusetts LGBTQ high school students who seriously considered suicide in the past year

MA Commission on LGBTQ Youth 2020 Report

3 in 10

School-aged children is experiencing harm to their emotional or mental health as a result of the COVID-19 social distancing and closure public health measures.

Gallup COVID-19 Poll Parents of School-Aged Children

23%

Of Massachusetts youth ages 0-17 experienced some form of trauma, abuse, or significant stress in 2017.

Child Health Data 2017

A growing body of evidence shows that trauma and chronic stress can “diminish concentration, memory, and the organizational and language abilities children need to succeed in school. For some children, this can lead to problems with academic performance, inappropriate behavior in the classroom, and difficulty forming relationships" (Trauma Sensitive Schools).

We know that resilience is possible when youth have information and resources to develop their capacity for coping and thriving, even in the face of adversity. In 2017, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported that “children ages 6 to 17 who have had two or more adverse childhood experiences but learned to stay calm and in control when faced with challenges are over three times more likely to be engaged in school compared to peers who have not learned these skills."

Helping to mitigate the effects of significant stress and trauma on youth requires a community-wide approach.

MAMH

MAMH Perspective

MAMH is a leading member of the Children's Mental Health Campaign coalition of families, advocates, health care providers, educators, and service recipients from across Massachusetts dedicated to the comprehensive reform of the children’s mental health system. MAMH strongly condemns racism and aims to integrate racial equity into each area of our advocacy work to address the disparities facing Black, Indigenous, and children of color in Massachusetts. We support trauma-informed mental health education and services for all Massachusetts children to thrive.