Action Alert: We Must Support Children’s Mental Health
“The Supporting Children’s Mental Health Care Access Act and the Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Act would increase access to mental health care services and provide direct funding to schools for mental health promotion and suicide prevention. These bills are bipartisan efforts, and they are gaining momentum. Let your elected representatives know you support them. It takes everyone to address this mental health crisis.”
The Surgeon General has sounded the alarm for the Mental Health Crisis currently affecting our children.
In December 2021, the United States surgeon general published a 53-page report on the “devastating” mental health crisis affecting our nation’s youth as a result of challenges faced by this generation. This includes the ongoing pandemic, which has only intensified mental health problems that already existed in our youth.
During the pandemic, children have suffered.
More than 140,000 children have lost a caregiver during the pandemic, and Black youth have been disproportionately affected by this loss due to inequities related to systemic racism. The problem is not just the pandemic; there was a 60% increase in suicide in children and adolescents between 2007 and 2018.
Today, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for those ages 10 to 24.
Since the pandemic, emergency room visits for attempted suicide have been 51 percent higher for teenage girls in early 2021 relative to the same period in 2019. This figure also increased by 4 percent for teenage boys. The number of children and teens with depression has increased by about a quarter over the last five years, and the number of children with anxiety has increased by about a third.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has declared this a national emergency—and this crisis demands action now.
Pediatricians are witnessing the escalating mental health crisis facing young people in clinics, practices and hospitals across the country. About 70% of U.S. counties do not have a single pediatric psychiatrist, and only half of kids with mental health conditions are cared for by mental health providers.
Tackling our Children’s Mental Health Crisis will require comprehensive action to ensure all children can access mental health services where they are, including in schools and in pediatricians’ offices. The Supporting Children’s Mental Health Care Access Act and the Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Act will make needed progress toward reaching children and teens with the care and services they need.
It’s time for Congress to prioritize the needs of children and adolescents through mental health legislation; these bills are an important part of the solution to keep our kids mentally healthy.