Research examining children’s mental health crisis through parents’ eyes finds gaps in care, desire for schools to do more

MADISON, WI –(BUSINESS WIRE)–An independent survey of parents sheds new light on mental health and health care challenges facing children and families in the United States. The survey explores barriers to access to care, reveals areas where parents see the most cause for concern, and highlights parents’ desire for schools and healthcare institutions to do more amid a national emergency on children’s mental health.

The survey found that a large majority (60%) of parents are concerned about their children’s mental health when they return to school this year. While parents still identified COVID-19 as the main issue negatively impacting children’s mental health – cited by 49% of respondents – school safety issues emerged as the next biggest cause of concern, with 46% of parents say these issues could negatively impact their children’s mental health this year.

In addition to a high level of concern for their children’s mental health, parents express frustration with their inability to access mental health care. In fact, when asked if educational and health institutions should do more to provide better mental health services, 83% agreed. This is a slight jump from last year, when 78% of parents said they thought health and education institutions should do more. However, the data also suggest that some parents could be more active in managing their children’s care. Only 54% of parents who expressed concern about their children’s mental health said they had tried to access care in the past year.

This survey of more than 1,100 parents of children between the ages of five and 18 was commissioned by DotCom Therapy (DCT), the most comprehensive provider of pediatric teletherapy, and the results are presented in a new report titled Back to School 2022: The Impact on the mental health and well-being of America’s children. This is DCT’s second annual survey, which examines the state of children’s mental health and health care through the eyes of parents as their children recover from more than two years of pandemic-fueled disruption.

“While a large majority of parents want schools to do more, our data — and first-hand experience working with schools — show that they already play a huge role in supporting America’s families and children’s mental health,” said Rachel Mack Robinson, founder and president of DotCom Therapy. “But the reality is that we all need to do more to confront this national crisis head-on and make sure that every child who needs help gets the help they deserve.”

When asked who they consider their support network, parents ranked their child’s teachers (33%) and guidance counselors (25%) as the third and fourth most important resources. Naturally, friends (50%) and their own parents (44%) top the list.

The mental health challenges that cause the most concern among parents are almost identical every year. Although the number of parents expressing concern about anxiety, panic attacks and depression in children has increased slightly, they still outweigh concerns about other challenges such as eating disorders and addiction by a wide margin.

When it comes to accessing mental health care for their children, parents say the biggest challenge is lack of available therapists (36%), and the second biggest challenge is lack of resources to find the right therapist (32% ). These two biggest challenges to accessing care were also the top two challenges cited by parents in last year’s survey.

Reasons for optimism

While the challenges contributing to the national mental health crisis among U.S. children are significant, parents are also expressing a few signs of optimism. When asked about the state of their children’s mental health since last year, 90% of parents say it has either improved (29%) or stayed the same (61%). Only 10% say their children’s mental health has worsened. Additionally, as children enter the 2022 school year, 79% of parents say their children seem well-adjusted (43%) or just going through the “usual ups and downs” (36%).

In addition, levels of concern about challenges accessing care have changed slightly in a positive direction. The number of parents citing challenges related to the lack of therapists decreased year over year (from 39% to 36%), and the number of parents citing a lack of resources as a barrier to finding the right therapist decreased even more ( from 38% to 32%).

One factor contributing to slight improvements in access to care may be the increasing adoption of teletherapy. Up 13% from last year, 69% of respondents said they would benefit from a service that could direct their child to the right therapist and facilitate teletherapy at home.

“Our research shows that the crisis may be stabilizing, but too many parents say their children’s mental health has simply stayed the same since last year – we need to move the needle even further and make sure it’s improving,” continued Robinson . “We have proven that teletherapy can be an excellent resource for schools and families because it removes geographic barriers, alleviates therapist shortages, and can improve equity in care delivery.” But we support any solutions that will ensure that every child gets the care they need. That has always been our mission and a mission that we must all fulfill.”

To download a full copy of the Back to School 2022: The Impact of Mental Health and Well-Being on America’s Children report, please visit: https://www.dotcomtherapy.com/mental-health-impact-on-children

About DotCom Therapy

DotCom Therapy is the most comprehensive provider of pediatric teletherapy for healthcare and educational organizations serving families nationwide. With a 5-star patient rating and 97% retention among its network of professional therapists, DCT provides the flexibility that families and organizations require to meet the mental health, behavioral, speech and occupational therapy needs of the children in their care. DCT is headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin with team members and therapists located throughout the United States. For more information, follow DotCom Therapy on Twitter @DotComTherapy) or LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/company/dotcom-therapy), or visit www.DotComTherapy.com.

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