May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and amid growing concerns about youth mental health, a new survey explores what’s worrying America’s children. It finds that 86% of school-aged kids reporting worrying at least some of the time.
The survey from Nemours KidsHealth found more than 1 in 3 children ages 9 to 13 worry at least once a week. The most common worries center around school (about 64%), friendships (41%) or family members (33%).
Other common concerns include worrying about the way they look (31%) or about being bullied (25%), and about 1 in 5 expressed worries about safety (22%) or violence in the world (19%).
“More important than the content of the worry is the frequency and the magnitude of the worry,” Dr. Lawrence Moss, president and CEO of Nemours Children’s Health, told CBS News.
Other recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shown a decline in many aspects of children’s mental health — a trend that began before the COVID-19 pandemic but worsened amid those disruptions.
This includes kids like Maeve Bradley, a 12-year-old who had to stay home in the pandemic like many kids across the country. For a while, she took a break from team sports. Since returning to the classroom, she says her mind is filled with worries.
“We were doing a lot of stuff on our computer. And now it’s like back with different kind of tests and stuff,” the 6th grader shared in an interview alongside her mother, Maura.
The survey found more than half of kids surveyed (53%) don’t think adults understand their concerns — something Maeve’s mom didn’t want her daughter to think.
“I just wanted to make sure she knew she could come and talk, and no matter what, we would be there for her,” Maura Bradley said.
What can parents do to help worried kids?
Moss says for some kids, worries can lead to depression and mental health problems that extend into adulthood.
“Of serious mental illness in the adult population, 75% started before age 14. So if we don’t jump on top of this problem, we’re literally at risk of losing a whole generation of Americans,” he says.
Moss advises parents be proactive by simply asking kids what’s on their mind.
Maeve, who is feeling better and back to playing sports, says she wanted to share her story so others knew they weren’t alone.
“I know some kids are really struggling, and I just want them to know there’s people going through the same thing,” she said.