Leading pediatric experts are warning about a severe mental health crisis among children — and declared it a national emergency this week.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Association have declared a national emergency for mental health among children and adolescents.
In a letter released on Tuesday, the organizations said that the pandemic and “struggle for racial justice” have accelerated mental health problems in children.
“This worsening crisis in child and adolescent mental health is inextricably tied to the stress brought on by COVID-19 and the ongoing struggle for racial justice and represents an acceleration of trends observed prior to 2020,” the declaration says.
NPR reported this week that the isolation has especially impacted young girls. The report states that from February to March of this year, emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts were up 51% for girls ages 12 to 17, compared with the same period in 2019, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We’ve seen an increase across the board for all of our services,” Dr. Ron-Li Liaw, chair of the pediatric mental health institute at Children’s Hospital Colorado, told KDVR. “The demand has completely surpassed the access and the capacity of our children’s mental health system. I don’t mean just at Children’s — I mean across the entire state of Colorado.”
According to the report, “from January to May, the Children’s Hospital Colorado pediatric system saw a 73% increase in behavioral health visits to the emergency department compared to the same timeframe in 2019. The Pediatric Mental Health Institute continues to see two to three times more patients reporting increased anxiety, depression and feelings of isolation and social disconnectedness.”
Dr. Sheryl Ziegler, a child and family therapist, told the station that a majority of the issues that they are seeing stem from the pandemic.
“There’s still a great deal of fear, and parents’ lives might not be the same, or they might still be trying to work from home or juggle things differently,” said Ziegler.
Ziegler added that many of the children seem to be suffering from loneliness.
“We always knew social connection was incredibly important for your physical and mental health. However, this pandemic really emphasized that.”
If you are concerned about your child’s mental health you can find resources to help here:
- Children’s Hospital Colorado: Supporting Kids’ Mental Health: From Coronavirus to Anxiety Languishing
- Teen Suicide Prevention: Teaching Teens to Ask
- Colorado Crisis Services
- Text “TALK” to 38255 or call 1-844-493-8255. Available 24/7 in English and Spanish.
- Safe2Tell Colorado: Anonymous reporting system for students to report safety concerns and help someone who is struggling or hurting. Call 1-877-542-7233 or safe2tell.org.