Children’s Mental Health in the Time of COVID

Children's Mental Health

The pandemic has exacerbated depression and anxiety, especially among children. A new Child Mind Institute survey supported by Morgan Stanley shows the depth and breadth of the problem.

Fever, cough and shortness of breath are among the typical symptoms of COVID-19 that we are all familiar with. What we are hearing less about is anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation. Yet these mental health issues have risen dramatically during the pandemic, particularly among children and young adults. According to the CDC, nearly 75% of young adults now suffer from at least one mental health or drug-related problem, and one in four have struggled with suicidal thoughts since the pandemic began.1

“We knew that the extraordinary stresses and societal upheaval happening in response to the pandemic would have widespread negative consequences on most people’s wellbeing, including children,” says Aki Nikolaidis, PhD, a research scientist in the Center for the Developing Brain at the Child Mind Institute, a partner in the Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children’s Mental Health(Alliance).“So we gathered a group of scientists and clinicians to create a tool that would give us an accurate and broad snapshot of how COVID-19 has impacted their lives and mental health.”

A Window on the First Wave

They called this project the Coronavirus Health and Impact Survey (CRISIS)2.  Supported by the Alliance—formed in February 2020 to leverage the resources of the Morgan Stanley Foundation and key nonprofit partners to help address children’s mental health—and by the National Institute of Mental Health, CRISIS is based on data collected in April 2020, at the height of the first wave of the pandemic. Researchers surveyed 5,646 participants in both the U.S. and the U.K., focusing on the moods, worries and life changes of the participants and their children in order to capture meaningful amounts of real-time data. The National Institute of Mental Health gave their 2020 Director’s Award to the researchers working on the CRISIS survey. The team was recognized for their outstanding efforts in the rapid implementation of mood surveys in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The researchers noted that the effects of other catastrophic events had been studied with data collected after such events were over. With the CRISIS research, they aimed to look at the risk and protective factors for wellbeing during this prolonged threat. “We wanted to start collecting the data as rapidly as possible, so we could be more actively attuned to how the unfolding pandemic was impacting people’s mental health,” says Nikolaidis. He and his team hoped to identify “the main drivers that are exacerbating mental health symptoms, as well as factors that may help protect mental health at this time.” The results showed that during this period, about 70% of children and adults felt lonely, irritable and fidgety, and a little more than half (55%) of children felt very, or moderately, sad, depressed or unhappy, compared to 25% of adults.

Identifying Those Most at Risk

The study also revealed that preexisting mental health problems, including anxiety and depression, were the most significant factors associated with a higher incidence of mental health issues in children during COVID-19. “This suggests that those previously struggling with their mental health are now among the most severely affected, and they are experiencing the highest need for intervention and support,” says Nikolaidis.

Among adults, anxiety and worries about COVID-19 were either the first or second most important driver of their pandemic mental health. But for children, disruptions in daily life—including isolation, financial changes and food insecurity—were a stronger driver than their worries about COVID-19 itself. “This finding is consistent with what we already know about the importance of regular, predictable, daily routines for pediatric mental health,” the researchers stated. “It suggests that looking at changes in children’s lives may be key to identifying which children are, and will be, most at risk for negative psychological impact during and after the pandemic.”

With U.S. infections surging again, Nikolaidis and his fellow researchers hope that the insights gleaned from their survey can help protect those at higher risk this time around. In particular, minimizing further disruption will be crucial to safeguarding the mental health of children. Likewise, watching out for signs of increased anxiety and depression, especially in those with preexisting mental health diagnoses or those experiencing significant worry, can help get them the care they need sooner, leading to better coping and a healthier outcome.

Morgan Stanley has funded follow-up surveys to identify any changes in behavioral and mental health among children and adults as the pandemic continues, and provide insight into potential long-term effects. “The first phase of our follow-up study, conducted in November 2020 has showed highly consistent findings,” Nikolaidis added. “Disruptions in daily life for children and adults in the U.S. and the U.K. were still one of the dominant drivers of mental health during the second wave of the pandemic, along with preexisting mental health conditions and worries about COVID-19.” 

Morgan Stanley Rises to the Challenge

The Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children’s Mental Health continues to support children and families in this unsettling time through additional educational initiatives, especially in secondary and higher education. This includes a significant grant to the Child Mind Institute to provide digital mental health resources for children, adolescents and young adults in the U.S., with a focus on vulnerable communities that traditionally lack access to these resources.

In the U.K., Morgan Stanley is supporting Place2Be with the launch of their free online training program for teachers to build skills and capacity to support positive mental health in school communities, following lockdowns.

Just recently, the Alliance hosted its inaugural convening to engage educators, school administrators and mental health professionals virtually across the U.S. in discussing pandemic-related mental health effects on young people and the importance of building communities of wellness and healing in response.

Since the crisis began, $175 million in emergency funding has been allocated to hospitals and other medical facilities, but less than 1% of that has gone specifically to mental health and substance abuse services.3 These efforts by the Alliance and its partners, including this latest research from the Child Mind Institute, are aimed at helping to correct that imbalance. “The overarching goal of the Alliance is to use our resources and reach to help improve children’s mental health around the world, which is at risk now more than ever,” says Joan Steinberg, Morgan Stanley’s Global Head of Community Affairs, the President of the Morgan Stanley Foundation and the Chair of the Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children’s Mental Health. “Research like the CRISIS study is imperative in understanding what this pandemic has done to children’s mental health, in order to help prevent the rise in mental health challenges going forward and to help the current generation of children develop the resilience to come out of this stronger.”

1Czeisler MÉ , Lane RI, Petrosky E, et al. Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1049–1057. DOI:

2Nikolaidis, A. et al. The Coronavirus Health and Impact Survey (CRISIS) reveals reproducible correlates of pandemic-related mood states across the Atlantic.



If You Are A Nonprofit School Serving Students In Any Grade K-12, You May Be Eligible For EANS

Nonprofit School EANS


Emergency Assistance for Nonpublic Schools (EANS) is part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 (CRRSA Act), the second federal economic stimulus package recently passed. The CRRSA Act created a fund that was directed to each state’s Governor, and within that fund, it allocated EANS money to religious and independent schools. A total of $248.9 million has been made available for New York State’s religious and independent schools.


The per-pupil funding amounts will depend on the total count of low-income students served and the financial impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the school. The below table illustrates some of the potential outcomes for this per-pupil funding.

Click Here for Additional Information


1. The school must be a not-for-profit that serves students in kindergarten through grade 12. Approved private special education schools, including Chapter 853 schools and State-supported schools for the blind and deaf, are eligible to participate. Programs that only serve preschool students with disabilities and special act school districts are not eligible to participate.

2. The school must be accredited, licensed, or otherwise approved to operate in accordance with State law.

3. The school must have been in existence prior to March 13, 2020, and be providing instruction in the current (2020-21) school year.

4. The school did not participate in the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) (15 U.S.C. 636(a)(37)) after December 27, 2020. PPP loans taken prior to December 27, 2020 have no impact on a school’s eligibility to participate in EANS. After December 27, 2020 a school must choose between EANS and PPP; a school cannot participate in both.

5. The school must submit a completed Letter of Intent by March 17, 2021 indicating that it intends to participate in the EANS program and provide all requested information.

Click for Eligibility Survey Document


For your school to receive a share of the funds, you must submit a Letter of Intent to NYSED by March 17, 2021. Schools that do not submit a Letter of Intent in one of the approved formats (see below) by the deadline will not be able to participate.


The Letter of Intent asks for basic information about the school, confirmation of school eligibility, and information necessary to calculate school-level allocation amounts.

School-level allocation amounts are calculated through enrollment amount, low-income student counts, and Covid-19 impact.

For schools that are not part of diocesan or multi-building systems, the Letter of Intent should be accessed through the Business Portal here.

Dioceses or multi-building organizations operating multiple school buildings as part of the same organization may submit the requested information in bulk. For this purpose, NYSED will provide a Letter of Intent spreadsheet that can be found here.

Letter of Intent

Letter of Intent Survey Directions

Kelly Napolitano


Senior Accountant

Kelly is a senior accountant of Cerini & Associates’ audit and consulting practice. She works with nonprofit, special education and school district clients