By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), and the Children’s Hospital Association have declared a national state of emergency in children’s mental health, citing how the COVID-19 pandemic produced fear, isolation, and grief that exacerbated an existing problem.

An estimated 140,000 children lost caregivers to the pandemic. During the first six months of the public health emergency, the percentage of emergency department (ED) visits for children with mental health emergencies increased 24% for patients age 5-11 years and 31% for those age 12-17 years. Between January 2019 and May 2021, there was a 50% increase in the number of ED visits for suspected suicide attempts among girls age 12-17 years.  

“The ongoing public health emergency has made a bad situation worse. 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. We cannot sit idly by. This is a national emergency, and the time for swift and deliberate action is now," AACAP President Gabrielle A. Carlson, MD, said in a statement.

The groups offered 10 ways lawmakers at all levels of government could help, including creating sustainable funding models, expanding telemedicine access, and instituting prevention programs in schools.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services set aside $14.2 million from the American Rescue Plan to further expand mental healthcare access for young Americans. The Health Resources and Services Administration will use these funds to invest in more projects through the Pediatric Mental Health Care Access (PMHCA) program, an initiative that came to life in 2018 thanks to the 21st Century Cures Act. The goal of PMHCA is to use telehealth services to make behavioral health services more widely available as part of pediatric primary care.

The recently released November 2021, issue of Pediatric Emergency Medicine Reports is an in-depth account of the most common mental health presentations in the pediatric population. The authors detail how to effectively engage with and provide proper care for and disposition to this at-risk population. Read more here