Nation's top pediatric organizations deem children's mental health a 'national emergency'

Three of the nation's top pediatrics organizations recently announced children and adolescent health as a national state of emergency.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), and the Children's Hospital Association (CHA) made the announcement Tuesday. The organizations represent more an 77,000 physicians and more than 200 children's hospitals.

The three said the COVID-19 pandemic has had a "serious toll" on the mental health of young children. Prior to March 2020, children were already dealing with feelings of isolation, fear and grief. Once COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, those feelings, the group said, were "exacerbated."

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"We cannot sit idly by. This is a national emergency and the time for swift and deliberate action is now," said Dr. Gabrielle A. Carlson. She serves as president for the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. "The ongoing public health emergency has made a bad situation worse."

In fact, between March 2020 and October 2020, data from the CDC shows emergency department visits for children between 5-11 years old rose by 24 percent and some 31 percent for kids 12-17. Suspected suicide attempts among girls 12-17 saw a more than 50 percent increase early this year compared to the same time period in 2019.

The statistics above also disproportionately impact communities of color as well.

"Lots of conversations around what's happening has created a higher anxiety in children," said therapist Ashley Gilmore with Gilmore Counseling. "Mental health and children is a valuable topic that is often not touched. I think children are starting to realize when they are feeling uncomfortable and parents are giving that space."

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