AAP, other pediatric groups declare 'national emergency' over mental health
The AAP and other pediatric groups on Tuesday declared that a “worsening crisis in child and adolescent mental health” brought on by COVID-19 “and the ongoing struggle for racial justice” constitutes a national emergency.
The AAP issued the joint declaration with the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and Children’s Hospital Association.
“As health professionals dedicated to the care of children and adolescents, we have witnessed soaring rates of mental health challenges among children, adolescents, and their families over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, exacerbating the situation that existed prior to the pandemic,” the groups wrote.
“Children and families across our country have experienced enormous adversity and disruption,” they continued. “The inequities that result from structural racism have contributed to disproportionate impacts on children from communities of color.”
According to a report last year in MMWR, there was an increase in mental health-related ED visits among children aged younger than 18 years in the first months of the pandemic. Another study published earlier this month in JAMA Network Open found that children’s suicide attempts have increased during the pandemic.
“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,” AAP President Lee Savio Beers, MD, FAAP, said in a statement. “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."
“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,” AACAP President Gabrielle A. Carlson, MD said in a statement. “We cannot sit idly by. This is a national emergency, and the time for swift and deliberate action is now.”
In their joint statement, the groups asked policymakers to increase federal funding for mental health services, improve access to telemedicine, support school-based mental health care, move quickly in accelerating the integration of mental health care in pediatrics, promote and pay for trauma-informed care services and address workforce shortages in the profession, among other actions.
“We must identify strategies to meet these challenges through innovation and action, using state, local and national approaches to improve the access to and quality of care across the continuum of mental health promotion, prevention, and treatment,” they wrote.
Cousien A, et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.28611.