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As school starts back up post-holidays, so do all the mixed feelings accompanying children’s mental health associated with returning to the classroom. Children are excited to see their friends, go on field trips, and learn in engaging ways. But their schedules become much busier, and balancing school, extra-curriculars, homework, and other educational demands can lead to stress. Couple that with the shift away from the bustling holiday activities, and you have a recipe that adversely affects children’s mental health and wellbeing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children include ADHD (9 million), anxiety (5.8 million), behavioral problems (5.5 million), and depression (2.7 million). These disorders can often occur simultaneously and, due to accessible care challenges, only about 20% of children receive appropriate treatment from a mental health specialist.
In 2022, NPR reported that schools across the country were seeing students from kindergarten through high school struggling with mental health. A portion of those cases were attributed to the pandemic in 2020, but symptoms continued through 2021 and into the new school year. Additionally, children’s hospitals experienced a 153% increase in emergency room visits for suicide attempts and self-injury among kids 5–18 (compared with 2016), according to the Children’s Hospital Association.
While children’s mental health concerns are rising year over year, there’s another important factor missing from the larger conversation: the connection between children’s mental health and the impact it has on their parents in the workforce. In 2022, the National Alliance on Mental Illness conducted a study to better understand the impact of children’s mental health on presenteeism and productivity—the results were staggering:
Balancing work responsibilities with the challenge of caring for a child with mental illness is never easy, but luckily, there are numerous ways for employers to make it more manageable. Here are 10 guidelines for employers to follow:
Offer helpful mental health resources at your workplace and promote their availability on a frequent basis. Employees will likely feel more comfortable seeking help when they know they’re not alone, so ensure that every employee feels heard and encouraged.
The Prudential Insurance Company of America (Newark, NJ)