Pediatricians, Psychiatrists, Children’s Hospitals Declare Emergency in Child Mental Health
October 21, 2021   

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:

  • Increase federal funding to ensure all families can access mental health services
  • Improve access to telemedicine to provide mental health care to all populations
  • Support effective models of school-based mental health care
  • Accelerate integration of mental health care in primary care pediatrics
  • Strengthen efforts to reduce the risk of suicide in children and adolescents through prevention programs in schools, primary care, and community settings
  • Address ongoing challenges of the acute care needs of children and adolescents
  • Fully fund community-based systems of care that connect families to evidence-based interventions
  • Promote and pay for trauma-informed care services that support relational health and family resilience.
  • Accelerate strategies to address longstanding workforce challenges and shortages so that children can access mental health services no matter where they live
  • Advance policies that ensure compliance with mental health parity laws

>> 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

For more information:

2021 NEI Congress
Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Academy
November 3, 2021 | Colorado Springs, CO and Virtual
NEI Podcast
Episode 76 - Coping in Times of Crisis: Mental Health Consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic

CME credits: 0.75 | Expires: July 9, 2023
Encore Presentation
Situation Critical: The Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health Care

CME credits: 1.25 | Expires: November 8, 2023
NEI Podcast:
Episode 101 - Ooh Child, Things are Going to Get Easier: Managing Pediatric Anxiety with Dr. Krystal Lewis
Encore Presentation:
You Ruined Me: Mental Health in the Face of Early Life Adversity

CME credits: 0.75 | Date: November 8, 2023
NEI Resources
Topic: Child Psychiatry