Psychology Benefits Society

Illustration of maze over young girl's brain

By Mary Ann McCabe, PhD (Chair, APA Interdivisional Task Force on Child and Adolescent Mental Health)

The economic costs to society of ignoring child mental health are staggering. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (2009) estimates that childhood mental disorders account for the largest category of spending of health dollars for children (ages 0-17).

Another recent estimate places the annual cost of childhood mental disorders at $247 billion (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2009), with additional costs incurred outside the healthcare system (e.g., special education, child welfare, juvenile justice).

With these kinds of costs, why aren’t we making faster progress in promoting child mental health, especially when the science base is growing so quickly?

There are three critical obstacles to effective advocacy in child mental health.

1.      Lack of a shared definition of child mental health

Professionals working in different aspects of child mental health operate…

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