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Understanding Children's Mental Health

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1 in every 10 youth has a mental or behavioral health disorder that impacts their lives at home and at school. We ride to empower New York’s kids with the resources they need to heal and grow.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted children’s mental health?

Mental and behavioral health professionals are deeply concerned about young people, who have experienced significant stress, trauma, grief, and loss as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic – combined with months of quarantine, uncertainty and anxiety around school, and a national reckoning on racial injustice.

During the first five months of the pandemic, more than one of every 1,000 children in New York State lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19. Over half of those children live in the Bronx, Brooklyn, or Queens.

Further, between March and July 325,000 children across the state were driven into poverty or near poverty, in part because of a severe jump in unemployment for parents. Over 1 million children in the State had at least one parent who became unemployed. Across the country, mental health-related visits to emergency departments for children increased by 24% and visits for teens by 31% during March and April 2020.

Nearly 30% of parents report that social distancing measures and closures have had negative effects on their children since March 2020, with even more saying that their children are approaching their limits1. Removing children from social environments means that they need even more mental health supports than in previous years.

57% of youth who receive mental health services are supported by in-school help. With schools closed, or operating on remote or limited schedules, children are losing access to the care they need. New York City’s kids need our help: and with only 20 child psychiatrists for every 100,000 kids, it’s critical to step up now and provide better support2.

What are some of the mental health challenges that kids face?

Anxiety disorders are the most common challenges, followed by behavior disorders, mood disorders, and substance abuse disorders. Children of all ages can also experience developmental delays, communication difficulties, social-emotional struggles, and learning disabilities.

Even before the coronavirus drove New Yorkers into their homes, suicide was the second-leading cause of death in the state for youth aged 15-19, and the third-leading cause of death for children aged 5-143.

Physical and sexual abuse, family violence, parental separation, emotional neglect, and substance misuse within a household can also be significant stressors for children. These are called adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Mental health issues can rise as early as between birth and age 5.

What’s the risk of not helping kids with mental health challenges?

Undetected psychiatric disorders can have irreversible long-term consequences for the children, their families, and their communities. 76% of children ages 3-5 who were expelled from preschool had ACEs. And almost 50% of adolescents in high school with mental health problems drop out of school. The good news is that children who receive treatment are over three times more likely to be engaged in school.

What programs exist to help?

The earlier we identify and treat children with mental health issues, the better chance they will have for successful adult lives.

Funds raised by Cycle of Support help provide:

  • Therapy for kids and families in every NYC borough
  • Mental health programs in schools to provide individual therapy sessions for students, and to support teachers and school staff
  • Services at a therapeutic nursery, including play therapy, music therapy, speech and language therapy, and occupational therapy for preschoolers
  • Foster care programs to help kids who have experienced abuse and neglect
  • Access to therapists in a variety of community-based settings such as child care centers, homeless shelters, and domestic violence shelters
  • Residences for kids who need more intensive therapeutic treatment


1 Calderon, V. (2020, July 31). U.S. Parents Say COVID-19 Harming Child's Mental Health. Retrieved August 03, 2020

2 Moncrease, S. (2020, June 10). Kids and Covid-19: A Mental Health Crisis Looms. Retrieved August 03, 2020

3 Kann, L., McManus, T., Harris, W. A., Shanklin, S. L., Flint, K. H., Queen, B., Ethier, K. (2018, May 21). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance - United States, 2017. Retrieved August 03, 2020