It’s time to fight the children’s mental health pandemic


We are living in a period of societal crisis which strongly affects our children and our families. The degree of pathology that child and adolescent psychiatrists see at all levels of care demands immediate attention to protect our children. The American Psychiatric Association and its member psychiatrists, as well as the broader children’s health and mental health community, are sounding the alarm bells for the mental health of our children.

The worsening mental health of young people appears to be correlated with the detrimental impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Since the start of the pandemic, suspected teenage suicide attempts have increased by more than 50%, emergency room visits among young children (aged 5 to 11) have increased by 24%, and emergency room visits among children. adolescents increased by 31%. These changes may be related to poor coping skills to alleviate stressors related to COVID-19 and disruption of the routine of daily living. However, the U.S. health care system is ill-prepared to cope with increasing mental health demands and the severity of cases.

Additionally, minority youth face additional stressors as underrepresented communities have experienced deteriorating health care outcomes, as evidenced by disproportionate COVID-19 infection rates, mortality and economic downturns.

The disproportionate damage from the COVID-19 pandemic to minority and vulnerable populations such as refugees and immigrants, including high mortality and economic devastation, has contributed to the escalation of depression, anxiety, trends suicidal and traumatic losses for many young people. These findings highlight the underlying impact on children, adolescents and families of health care inequalities and the pandemic. It also highlights the need for more health care resources and federal funding for children and their families, especially in underserved communities.

There are several ways we can take action to combat this pandemic, including:

ν Integrate assessment and mental health care into education systems across the country;

ν Increase awareness among children and families about mental health crises in underserved and disadvantaged areas;

ν Improve access to telepsychiatry, in particular in areas with limited access to resources;

ν Support and advance the integration of mental health care between primary care and pediatrics through collaborative and integrative care models;

ν Support ongoing efforts to combat the suicide crisis and safety measures for children and adolescents; and

ν Support increased recruitment in psychiatric residences and the training of children and adolescents.

The American Psychiatric Association endorsed a joint statement urging all policymakers to make the necessary and necessary changes to support children’s access to mental health care and services, and joined Sound the Alarm for Kids to help raise awareness of the mental health emergency in children and adolescents.

We live in a time of emergency for the country’s children and we call on decision makers at all levels of government to act now to ensure that testing and treatment is accessible to all. It is essential that we address this crisis before it becomes a full-blown calamity.

Jacques Ambrose, MD, MPH, Rana Elmaghraby, MD, and Stephanie Garayalde, MD are members of the American Psychiatric Association’s Council on Children, Adolescents, and Their Families. They wrote this Inside

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