HealthDay News — Fear, grief, uncertainty, and isolation during the pandemic have triggered a national state of emergency in the mental health of America’s youth, leading child health care groups warned Tuesday.
Young people already faced significant mental health challenges, and the pandemic has made them worse, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association.
“Children’s mental health is suffering. 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,” Lee Savio Beers, M.D., president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said in a news release from the three groups. “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.”
The statistics bear that out: Between March and October 2020, the percentage of emergency department visits for children with mental health emergencies rose by 24 percent among children aged 5 to 11 years and by 31 percent among children aged 12 to 17 years, the groups said in a statement. And there were 50 percent more suspected suicide attempt-related emergency room visits among girls aged 12 to 17 years in early 2021 compared with early 2019. Recent data also show that more than 140,000 U.S. children have suffered the loss of a primary or secondary caregiver during the pandemic.
The groups said in their declaration that policymakers need to increase funding to ensure all families can access mental health services, improve telemedicine access, support effective school-based mental health care, and strengthen efforts to reduce youth suicide risk, among other measures.