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Understanding Children's Mental Health

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1 in every 10 youth in the U.S. has a mental health challenge with the potential to severely impair them during their lifetimes. We ride to empower today’s youth in New York with the resources they deserve.

How has children’s mental health been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

The Coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis in New York City has been difficult for many people, including our children. Nearly 30% of parents report that social distancing measures and closures have had negative effects on their children since March, 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 previous years.

There is also an increased need for more critical care amongst youth. Following similar outbreaks (H1N1 and SARS) in the US, 30% of quarantined children met criteria for PTSD, a rate that mirrors child abuse survivors2. In China, JAMA Pediatrics reported that 22% of youth were experiencing depressive symptoms—after only one month of social isolation3. Right here in New York, local doctors tracked a sharp rise in psychiatric visits as schools closed, along with a sudden increase in extremely serious cases in May4.

57% of youth receiving mental health services are typically supported by in-school help. With schools closed or even open with limited resources, children are losing access to the care they need. Our children in NYC need our help: and with only 20 child psychiatrists for every 100,000 kids, it’s critical to step up now and provide better support5.

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 5-146.

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 Kluger, J. (2020, July 23). The Coronavirus' Effect on Kids Mental Health Is Deepening. Retrieved August 03, 2020

4, 5 Moncrease, S. (2020, June 10). Kids and Covid-19: A Mental Health Crisis Looms. Retrieved August 03, 2020

6 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