Mental health is an essential component of overall health. Mental health challenges—from individual symptoms to diagnosed mental illness—impact all children, adolescents and families.

Pediatricians are an important first resource for parents and caregivers who are worried about their child's emotional and behavioral health or who want to promote healthy mental development.


Mental Health Overview

More than 14 million children and adolescents in the United States, or 1 in 5, have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Prevalence of depression and anxiety among children and adolescents has increased over time. In children aged 6-17 years, the rate of ever being diagnosed with anxiety or depression was 5.4% in 2003, 8% in 2007, and 8.4% in 2011-2012 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). In 2018, suicide was reported as the 2nd leading cause of death among children and adolescents ages 10-24 (National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Of those that seek treatment for a mental health disorder, only 20% receive needed services.

The AAP supports a developmental approach to children’s mental health that encompasses primary prevention through promoting social-emotional health and safe, nurturing relationships; secondary prevention through screening, identification and assessment; and tertiary prevention through treatment and co-management with mental health professionals.


AAP Recommendations

The AAP provides recommendations and guidelines to support pediatricians and other health professionals working to address mental health concerns and promote healthy mental development.

Mental Health Competencies for Pediatric Practice

Achieving the Pediatric Mental Health Competencies



The resources below provide information and guidance on how pediatricians and health care providers can support healthy mental development of children, adolescents and families.

Pediatric Mental Health Care Access (PMHCA) Program

The PMHCA program aims to build the capacity of pediatricians and other pediatric primary care professionals to support the mental, behavioral and mental health needs of children, adolescents and families, and effectively connect with PMHCA programs for teleconsultation and support. 

Mental Health Education Resources: Residency Curriculum

The AAP Mental Health Leadership Work Group (MHLWG) has developed a set of teaching materials on brief interventions and managing mild to moderate anxiety.

Mental Health: Chapter Action Kit

Review strategies for improving children’s mental health programs and services.

View Chapter Action Kit

Mental Health: Contact Us

The Mental Health Initiative welcomes your comments and questions. Please feel free to contact us.

Contact Us 

Mental Health Email List

Stay informed by joining the AAP Mental Health Initiatives group email list.

Podcasts and Voices Blogs

Learn what others are saying. Listen to our podcasts and read our blog posts.

Adolescent Mental Health - Episode 26

In this episode hosts David Hill, MD, FAAP, and Joanna Parga-Belinkie, MD, FAAP, talk to Cora Breuner, MD, MPH, FAAP, about screening for and treating adolescent mental health issues. 

Pediatrics on Call


October 20, 2020

Identifying Psychosis in Adolescents - Episode 75

Hosts David Hill, MD, FAAP, and Joanna Parga-Belinkie, MD, FAAP,  talk to Liwei Hua, MD, PhD, about identifying and managing psychosis in adolescents and young adults.

Pediatrics on Call


August 17, 2021

Adolescent Depression: Be Ready to Ask- and Respond

Read how validated screening tools for teens help identify a variety of health risks as early as possible, enables careful and thorough discussion with patients and prompt access to treatment.

Voices Blog


March 2, 2018

A Remedy in Turbulent Times: Helping Families Build "Relationship" Health

As pediatricians, we can encourage relational health skills to help keep everyone healthy.

Voices Blog


July 6, 2020

Last Updated



American Academy of Pediatrics