Childhood Mental Illness in Wisconsin

State of Children's Health in Wisconsin

Childhood Mental Illness in Wisconsin

Our Services

Pediatric Psychiatry

What is the definition?

Mental illness is a term that “collectively refers to all mental disorders, defined as health conditions associated with distress, or impaired functioning and characterized by abnormalities in thinking, emotion, mood, behavior, human interaction or some combination thereof.” Whereas, mental health refers to “the state of successful performance of mental and emotional function, resulting in productive activities, fulfilling relationships, and the ability to adapt to change and cope with adversity.”

Taken from Glossary of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Terms

How many children are affected?

The American Academy of Pediatrics cites that greater than 14 million children and adolescents in the United States have a diagnosable mental health disorder that requires intervention or monitoring and interferes with daily functioning.

In Wisconsin, about 11.6 percent of children aged 2-17 years have at least one of the following emotional, behavioral, or developmental conditions: ADD/ADHD, anxiety, depression, oppositional defiant disorder /conduct disorder, autism spectrum disorders, developmental delay, and Tourette Syndrome1

Snapshot of Mental Health Problem Risk Factors among Wisconsin Children

  • Percent Wisconsin high school students who self reported that during the past 12 months they felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks in a row that they stopped doing some usual activities: 22.7
  • Wisconsin high school students who self reported that they seriously considered attempting suicide during the past 12 months: 13.5

Snapshot of Mental Health Problem Disparities among Wisconsin Children2 

Among Wisconsin high school students, females had a higher prevalence than males of reporting they felt sad or hopeless (30.1 percent versus 15.5 percent) or seriously considered attempting suicide (17.0 percent versus 10.0 percent).

What are strategies to help?

Parents, health care providers, schools/communities can all work together to foster a child’s emotional well-being and promote mental health. A few strategies include:

  • Parents can be aware of normal stages of emotional and physical development; and they can celebrate their child’s successes and teach their child how to deal with challenges.
  • Health care providers can offer anticipatory guidance regarding development and screen for and help provide timely intervention for behavioral, emotional and social problems.
  • Schools can ensure integration of emotional and social education within the curriculum.
  • Communities can develop a community-based mental health resource guide to help assess and improve mental health services at the community level.

Learn more at:


  1. 2007 National Survey of Children's Health
  2. 2011 YRBS