Pediatricians Declare 'National Emergency' For Children's Mental Health

By Bill Galluccio

October 19, 2021

Sad autistic boy and psychotherapist
Photo: Getty Images

Several groups of children's health professionals have declared a "national emergency" over the mental health of America's youth.

"We are caring for young people with soaring rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness, and suicidality that will have lasting impacts on them, their families, their communities, and all of our futures," American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry President Dr. Gabrielle A. Carlson said in a statement. "We cannot sit idly by. This is a national emergency, and the time for swift and deliberate action is now."

The groups, which include the AACAP, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Children's Hospital Association, said that while the mental health of children has been declining for the past decade, the coronavirus pandemic made the problem much worse.

"Young people have endured so much throughout this pandemic, and while much of the attention is often placed on its physical health consequences, we cannot overlook the escalating mental health crisis facing our patients," AAP President Lee Savio Beers, M.D., FAAP, said in a statement. "Today's declaration is an urgent call to policymakers at all levels of government — we must treat this mental health crisis like the emergency it is."

They cited several reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that showed a significant increase in mental health emergencies since the beginning of the global coronavirus pandemic in March 2020. They noted a nearly 51% increase in hospitalizations for suspected suicide attempts in girls between the ages of 12 and 17 in early 2021 compared to the same time in 2019.

The pandemic has also taken a toll on younger children, with a 24% increase in the number of mental health emergencies in children between the ages of five and 11.

"We must identify strategies to meet these challenges through innovation and action," the groups wrote, "using state, local, and national approaches to improve the access to and quality of care across the continuum of mental health promotion, prevention, and treatment."

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