• Article
  • November 2, 2021

Sounding the Alarm for Kids' Mental Health

There is a mental health crisis among the nation’s children and teens. Children's mental health concerns were common before the COVID-19 pandemic, with 1 in 5 children experiencing a mental health condition annually. The pandemic worsened this ongoing crisis in children's mental health by causing disruptions in daily routine, social isolation, financial insecurity and grief for many children and families.


  • In the first half of 2021, children’s hospitals reported cases of self-injury and suicide in children ages 5-17 at a 45% higher rate than during the same period in 2019, according to data from the Pediatric Health Information System (PHIS).

  • Forty-three states are experiencing a severe shortage in psychiatrists specializing in child and teen care.

  • More than a quarter of parents say they have sought professional mental health help for their children because of the pandemic.

What are children’s hospitals reporting?

  • Children's Hospital Colorado reports that emergency room visits for behavioral health reasons increased 72% statewide between January and April. They declared a mental health state of emergency in May of 2021.

  • Franciscan Children's in Boston reports that requests for outpatient behavioral health services for children of color increased 19% during the first year of COVID-19, compared to the year before.

  • Children's Wisconsin in Milwaukee experienced an 80% increase in referrals for mental health services in December 2020. Currently, more than 700 children are on the waitlist for outpatient therapy.

  • Wolfson Children's Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, experienced a greater than 200% increase in the number of behavioral health emergency admissions in 2020 compared to the previous year.


Last month, Children’s Hospital Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP)
declared a national mental health emergency for children and teens.

Sound the Alarm for Kids, founded by CHA, expands on the declaration by outlining the urgency needed to promote the well-being of the nations’ children. Over 50 children’s hospitals have signed the statement declaring the national emergency and will continue to support the initiative through the end of the year.

With data-supported evidence and spokespeople to generate awareness of the mental health crisis in children, this initiative calls on Congress to act in support of the needs of children and their families.

To address the ongoing crisis in children’s mental health, CHA has asked Congress to:

  • Invest in pediatric mental health infrastructure – provide additional funding in grants to children's health care providers to increase their capacity to provide pediatric mental health services.
  • Support the pediatric mental health workforce – provide additional funding annually dedicated to pediatric mental health workforce training and development across a wide array of pediatric mental health fields.

To support this initiative and amplify the message, preview the toolkit.