Pediatric groups declare national emergency over children’s mental health

A group of pediatric organizations have declared a national emergency in children’s mental health, coinciding with alarming new emergency room statistics released on Tuesday.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association urged lawmakers in a statement to act quickly to resolve the crisis.

“Children’s mental health is suffering,” AAP president Lee Savio Beers said in the statement. “Young people have endured so much throughout this pandemic, and although much of the attention is often focused on its physical health consequences, we cannot overlook the escalating mental health crisis our patients are facing. Today’s statement is an urgent call for politicians on all levels of government – We must treat this mental health crisis as the emergency it is. “

The opinion from the pediatric organizations draws on statistics from March to October 2020, which showed that the percentage of emergency room visits for mental emergencies among children aged 5-11 increased by 24 percent – and by 31 percent for children aged 12-17. The same study showed an increase of more than 50 percent in emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts among girls between the ages of 12-17.

“We were concerned about the emotional and behavioral health of children even before the pandemic,” AACAP President Gabrielle Carlson said in the statement. “The ongoing public health emergency has made a bad situation worse. We are caring for young people with increasing numbers of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness and suicide, which will have lasting consequences for them, their families, their communities and all our future. “We can not sit idly by. This is a national emergency and the time for swift and deliberate action is now.”

The groups stressed the disproportionate mental health effects on children in colored communities, saying they have not only had to deal with the effects of the pandemic, but also “the inequalities that result from structural racism.”

The organizations urge lawmakers to act in several ways, including by increasing federal funding for mental health access for families, improving access to telemedicine, and supporting school-based mental health care.

The statement follows an analysis by advocate group Mental Health America in July, which found that most states are not ready to address the mental health crisis among children. The group reported that only 14 states have fully expanded Medicaid to cover mental health services in schools.


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