Kids’ Mental Health Is in Crisis

The No. 1 concern of parents today is that their child might struggle with anxiety or depression, says Pew survey

By Barbara Pierce

It’s difficult to be a parent these days. Most parents say it’s a lot harder than they expected, much harder than when they were kids.

Being responsible for a child and his many, many needs can be exhausting. Everyday stresses, getting them off to school each day, running them around, helping them handle their challenges, makes parenting difficult.

A recent Pew Research Center survey learned this from parents of children under the age of 18.

The survey also asked parents to identify their primary concern about their child. The results were surprising. It’s not drugs. Not teen pregnancy. Not even bullying.

The No. 1 concern of parents today is that their child might struggle with anxiety or depression. This trumps all other concerns. Their children’s mental health is what they worry about, what keeps them awake at night, according to the Pew survey.

Gone are the days of parents sitting up worrying about their kids being bullied, not having friends, getting into trouble with drugs or alcohol. Social media and the pandemic have brought a new dimension to the already challenging job of parenting.

“There’s an increasing mental health crisis among youth in America, further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Shawn Cusworth, director of behavioral health at The Neighborhood Center, Utica. The Neighborhood Center provides services to promote the well-being of children and families, as well as providing professional mental health clinical services for children, youth, adults and their families.

“The prevalence of mental health concerns among young people is rising dramatically here in Oneida and Herkimer counties,” she added. She referenced to student surveys conducted in 2022 to help capture the prevalence of mental health issues of children aged 13-18 from Herkimer and Oneida counties.

This survey found that about 77% of kids in Herkimer and Oneida counties had sad, empty, angry or anxious feelings; 86% had anxiety in the past month; 78% had anxiety that interfered with their daily activities.

The survey was conducted in 2022, a the end of the pandemic period, which had a huge emotional toll on children. However, they’re still struggling, say experts.

How to recognize if your child needs help

“The most important thing to pay attention to are any significant changes in the child’s typical functioning that can’t be explained,” said Cusworth. “It can be tough, particularly with teenagers who typically have a lot of changes in their sleep and mood.”

“Paying attention to significant negative changes in mood, sleep, appetite, and activities that last more than a couple weeks is important,” she added. “For example, if a child who is normally very social is suddenly withdrawn for that amount of time. It’s very important that children have a supportive, non judgmental adult that they trust to check in with them and that knows when and how to get them help. Kids may not always feel comfortable talking to a parent out of fear of upsetting them or other reasons.”

She offered this list of some warning signs that could indicate your child needs help: Sadness that lasts two or more weeks; changes in being social or staying away from others; hurting himself or talking about it; talking about death or suicide; having outbursts or being very moody or testy; out-of-control behavior that can be harmful; big changes in mood, behavior or personality; changes in eating habits, trouble sleeping; frequent headaches or stomachaches; doing poorly in school.

How to get help for your child

If you have concerns, talk to your child’s doctor for evaluation and referrals to get help, suggests Cusworth. Also, school counselors are a good resource. Many schools have resources for assisting kids and families with a variety of needs, including mental health. See the website for details:

The Neighborhood Center provides counseling services at several schools, said Cusworth.

“Also, the Herkimer and Oneida County System of Care websites are a great resource for families. Our agency is part of a community collaboration for those systems. See:,”

If an evaluation confirms there is a mental health problem, individual or family therapy is usually recommended, said Cusworth. “The Neighborhood Center has professional therapy and psychiatry services, as well as the Mobile Crisis Assessment Team if there is an urgent need for an evaluation. They are a 988-call center, so dialing 988 will connect anyone to help.”

For non emergencies or to learn more about The Neighborhood Center, call  315-272-2600 or see

The NY State Office of Mental Health has just released a bulletin stating that they have become keenly aware of the behavioral health issues confronting our children and plan to aggressively strengthen the delivery of care to children. This will include “unprecedented” funding to community organizations, building early intervention programs, increasing insurance coverage, and expanding school-based counseling.