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Consequences of Failing Our Children

From the prenatal period into early adulthood, there are many opportunities to support the mental health of our young people. From providing support for families, to promoting programs in schools, to providing access to a full spectrum of mental health support in the community, we can address risk factors and intervene early. Unfortunately, signs are often ignored and not met with supports for the child. When we do not act early to support our children and young adults, we face consequences like suicide, incarceration, homelessness, and school drop-out. This is not the result of a particular individual’s actions but of a system that does not yet promote and support mental health as needed.

  • Suicide: Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among 10 to 24 year-olds in the United States, with about 13 lives lost every day and 4,600 lives lost each year.[i] In a nationwide survey of 9th to 12th grade students in both public and private schools, 8% of students reported having attempted suicide in the past year.[ii]
  • Incarceration: Of the more than 600,000 youth place in juvenile detention centers annually, 65 to 70% have diagnosable mental health disorders. [iii]More than 90 percent have been exposed to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES), with the majority having six or more ACES. At least three quarters have experienced traumatic victimization.[iv]
  • Homelessness: The National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that approximately 550,000 unaccompanied youth and adults under 24 experience at least one week of homelessness each year.[v] The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report using community reported data estimated 194,301 homeless youth on a single night.[vi] Among youth experiencing homelessness, 20 to 40% identify as LGBT.[vii]
  • School Drop-out and Job Loss: In 2005–2006, the percentage of students with disabilities exiting school with a regular high school diploma was 57%, an increase from 43% in 1996–1997; however, only 43% of students with an emotional disturbance graduated with a diploma.[viii] Those who drop-out are more likely to be institutionalized than their peers, particularly in jails and prisons. 1 in 10 individuals who dropped out of high school were institutionalized compared to 1 in 33 of those who graduated high school, and only 1 in 500 individuals with Bachelor’s Degrees were institutionalized.[ix]

When we add up these losses of life and human potential, we see the incredibly high cost of not acting early. The statistics outlined above do not even include other bad outcomes, like losses in productivity, damage to relationships, and losses in life satisfaction as a whole.  With prevention and early intervention, we can make sure we don’t leave families all across America wondering, “What if?”

Prevention and Early Intervention in Mental Health- Home

[i] Suicide Prevention. (2015, March 10). Retrieved from

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Better Solutions for Youth with Mental Health Needs in the Juvenile Justice System. (2014). Retrieved from

[iv]  Better Solutions for Youth with Mental Health Needs in the Juvenile Justice System. (2014). Retrieved from

[v] Youth. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[vi] Youth. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[vii] Youth Homelessness - National Coalition for the Homeless. (2014).

[viii] 30th Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2008. (2008). Retrieved from

[ix] Sickmund, M., & Puzzanchera, C. (2014, December 1). Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2014 National Report. Retrieved September 15, 2015, from