On Tuesday, October 19, 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) joined together to declare a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health and are calling on policymakers to join them, stating the pandemic is a leading factor driving this crisis.
Published reports from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supports this declaration. According to data from the CDC (Leeb RT et al., 2020), mental health-related emergency department visits increased starting in April 2020, and remained elevated through at least October of 2020, with increases of 24% among children aged 5-11 years and 31% among adolescents aged 12–17 years, compared with the same period in 2019. Additionally, another report (Yard E et al., 2021) found that during February 21 - March 20, 2021, suspected suicide attempt emergency department visits were 50.6% higher among girls aged 12–17 years than during the same period in 2019; among boys aged 12–17 years, suspected suicide attempt emergency department visits increased 3.7%.
In the declaration, the groups emphasize the disproportionate toll on young people in communities of color and how the ongoing struggle for racial justice is inextricably tied to the worsening mental health crisis, including the inequities that result from structural racism. Hillis SD et al., 2021, found that from April 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021, over 140,000 children in the United States experienced the death of a parent or grandparent caregiver. The risk of such loss was 1.1 to 4.5 times higher among children of racial and ethnic minorities, compared to Non-Hispanic White children.
The organizations are urging policymakers to take several actions:
>> AAP-AACAP-CHA Declaration of a National Emergency in Child and Adolescent Mental Health
Hillis SD et al. Pediatrics. Epub ahead of print. Abstract
Leeb RT et al. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1675–1680. Report
Yard E et al. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2021;70:888–894. Report
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