Parents in the Workforce Disrupted by Children’s Mental Health Issues

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       Parents in the Workforce Disrupted by Children’s Mental Health Issues

Jim Windell


           When you look at the mental health of children in the U.S. as reported by the CDC, the results are startling – and worrisome. More than one in 11 children aged 13 to 17 suffer from ADHD and/or anxiety. One in five young people between 12 and 17 have experienced a major depressive episode; more than one in three teens report feeling sad and hopeless; almost 20 % seriously considered suicide; and according to the CDC, rates of suicide attempts and deaths among children have increased over the past decade – suicide is now the eighth leading cause of death in children age 5–11.

           Given these kinds of statistics, surely the work performance and productivity of parents have to suffer. That’s exactly what a new national study conducted by On Our Sleeves, the movement for children’s mental health, has found.

           It has become evident in the last two years that the American economy has undergone a rapid and dramatic change – as has America’s workforce. We are using such terms as “the great resignation” and “quiet quitting” as we attempt to better understand workplace challenges across the country. Most of us would guess that the pandemic has contributed to the significant issues confronting our workforce. Undoubtedly, there are many other factors. But this research by On Our Sleeves suggests that the pediatric mental health crisis could be a major – and surprising – contributor among working parents in our workforce. 

           In a recent report entitled “The Ripple Effect,” based on the study conducted by On Our Sleeves, it was found that the mental health of their children remains a concern for the large majority of working parents. Almost half of all parents indicate that in the past year their child's mental health has been somewhat or extremely disruptive to their ability to work on most days.

           In addition to daily work disruptions, many working parents reported long-term disruptions to their careers due to their children’s mental health. For working parents who feel as though they’ve been placed in a position to choose between their child and their work, the choice is clear – with one-third (32%) of working parents reporting that they have changed or quit their job during the past two years because of their child’s mental health.

           “After discovering the impact that children’s mental health was having on the national workforce, it was important for us to dig in deeper and flesh out the scope of the impact and look for ways to provide relief to parents and employers,” said Marti Bledsoe Post, executive director of On Our Sleeves. “Having these honest conversations can be difficult and new to many parents, but, luckily, this data points to solutions.”

           Clearly, as this data suggests, many – if not a majority – of all parents are struggling with concerns about their children. On Our Sleeves asked what would help ease the strain they were feeling and make them more likely to stay with their employer. Many pointed to the need for collaboration with their employers to address the impact of their children’s mental health on their work. In addition, nearly three-quarters of working parents surveyed said jobs that provide their children with mental health benefits and resources are more attractive than jobs that do not offer such benefits.

           According to Dr. Arianna Hoet, clinical director of On Our Sleeves and pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, “We’re seeing that caregivers will choose family over work if the mental health needs of their child are involved, and so the U.S. workforce will continue to be affected by pediatric mental health.” Dr. Hoet added that “Our kids are having a hard time and, as a result, their caregivers are too. Equipping caregivers and their employers with resources to address youth mental health is key to our path forward.”

           The U.S. Surgeon General is also aware of this workplace crisis. “We must all work together to address the youth mental health crisis and improve mental health at work. This research reinforces the fact that youth mental health impacts not only children but also parents, caregivers and employers,” said U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy. “My Surgeon General’s Advisory on Youth Mental Health and Framework on Mental Health and Well-Being in the Workplace outline steps that employers can take to support the mental health of their employees and their families, recognizing that employers have a role to play as we work to lay the foundation for a healthier nation.”

            To read “The Ripple Effect,” find it here.


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