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Child and Adolescent Mental Health During COVID-19: Considerations for Schools and Early Childhood Providers

Publication Date
Kristina D. West, Mir M. Ali, Alayna Schreier, and Emma Plourde

COVID-19 pandemic’s social restrictions have prompted a surge in the mental health needs of children of all ages. Nationwide 4.3 million children/adolescents have been diagnosed with COVID-19 as of August 2021, and many of them have returned to early childhood and school settings. Schools and early childhood programs have long been essential settings for delivery of mental health services. Utilizing a large national claims database, this issue brief uses descriptive statistics to estimate the rates of mental health conditions, co-occurring health conditions, disability and adverse childhood experiences among a sample of children with COVID-19 diagnosis, negative COVID-19 test or COVID-19 symptoms only.

The analysis finds high likelihood of mental health conditions which suggests underlying population occurrence, potentially exacerbated by social isolation, quarantine, and overall stress and adversity related to the pandemic rather than the COVID-19 diagnosis itself. The brief reviews the rates of individual mental health conditions (anxiety, depression, trauma and stressor related disorders, ADHD, behavior/conduct disorders) by age and the practical application for school mental health and early childhood providers in identifying and referring children appropriately for services. Schools and early childhood providers may need additional supports and resources to address the needs of children with adverse childhood experiences and those with disabilities, as both populations have increased likelihood for mental health conditions compared to the rest of the children in this study. The American Rescue Plan Act allocates substantial funding to children’s mental health services, including funding for evidence-based interventions in school and early childhood education settings.

This brief was prepared through intramural research by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. For additional information about this subject, you can visit the ASPE COVID-19 page at or contact the ASPE authors:,,,

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