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Between school closures, quarantines, safety restrictions, and limited spaces for daycare programs, the pandemic made it challenging for working parents to find a balance between work and caregiving. As a result, many parents have left their jobs to dedicate more time and resources to helping their kids. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau noted in January 2021 that 10 million mothers with school-aged children were not actively working. That’s 1.4 million more unemployed moms than in 2020. Overall, the number of families with at least one working parent has decreased by 2.9 percent since 2019.
To add fuel to the fire, child and adolescent mental health is in crisis. Even before the pandemic, mental and behavioral health issues were fairly common in kids, with nearly one in five children having a mental, emotional, or behavioral health disorder. It’s estimated that of children ages three to 17, three percent have depression and seven percent have anxiety.
The pandemic has only intensified mental health issues and other psychosocial stressors for many children. In nearly one in 10 families, both parents and their kids have experienced worsening mental health during the pandemic.
Around 75 percent of all mental illnesses emerge before the age of 25, and a key component of treating these children and young adults is early intervention. Unfortunately, too many kids go without the mental health care they need. According to the CDC, only around 20 percent of children with mental or behavioral health issues receive treatment from a specialized mental health care provider.
The infrastructure for children’s mental health care is lacking in most of the U.S. Less than half of emergency departments (46.2 percent) have policies in place to care for children with mental health and social concerns.
This is also evident in the amount of barriers caregivers and parents face when trying to access pediatric mental health care, including:
These roadblocks make early intervention difficult if not impossible for some families, which only adds to parents’ stress.
“Finding mental health care for a child is a huge challenge for parents,” says Kendall Browne, PhD, program manager of workforce mental health at Lyra. “They’re sorting through insurance, spending hours on the phone, sitting on waitlists, and they may be driving a great distance to get the care their child needs.”
“The mental health of parents and children are inextricably linked,” said Dr. Browne. “Knowing that your child is struggling is a profound stressor for a parent. Few things are going to take your employee off of their A-game more than their child needing help.”
Children depend on their parents and caregivers for everything, including supporting their mental health. When parents have poor mental health, their children are more likely to have mental or behavioral health issues, too. Likewise, having a child in distress adds to parents’ stress and anxiety.
Dr. Browne notes, “A mental health benefit that parents can use to access care for their children can provide tremendous relief. It saves parents time and energy, and it can help make sure children get the care they need.” She adds, “If you think about your rationale for providing health benefits for the whole family, including children, a mental health benefit is an extension of that… If you care about your employees’ health and well-being, you care about their children’s health and well-being.”
Children’s mental health is in crisis—and the solution lies in employer-based family-wide mental health support. So what can organizations do to develop a benefits strategy that provides care for both employees and their children?
Not all mental health benefits are created equal. When looking for a mental health benefit that supports employees and their families, here are some key things to consider:
Download our guide to learn more about family mental health and how Lyra can partner with your organization.
If you want help connecting with a coach or therapist, Lyra can assist you. You can get started today if Lyra is offered by your employer. Sign up now.