Health Organizations Urge the Biden Administration to Declare a Federal National Emergency in Children’s Mental Health
Washington, DC – One year ago the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) declared a National State of Emergency in Child and Adolescent Mental Health. To mark this anniversary, AAP, AACAP and CHA sent a letter with over 130 signatories to the Biden administration asking they do more to address the mental health needs of children, specifically requesting they issue a National Emergency Declaration in children’s mental health. Doing so would galvanize existing critical funding streams and support to help ensure that all children and adolescents can access the full continuum of mental and behavioral health care from promotion and prevention to early identification and treatment.
“As pediatricians, we recognize that the current crisis makes promoting mental health a necessity for all children and adolescents. It also requires transformative action to address,” said AAP president Moira Szilagyi, MD, PhD, FAAP. “By declaring the mental health crisis a national emergency, our federal government can help mobilize resources and activities to address the needs of children and teens."
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health challenges facing children were a growing concern. The pandemic only exacerbated them. Emergency room visits for youth suicide attempts have increased dramatically and eating disorder visits doubled during the pandemic. Suicide is increasing for children and teens at alarming rates—especially for Black boys and girls under age 12. It is now the leading cause of death for Asian American youth and the second leading cause of death for young people nationally. Soaring rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness and suicidality will have lasting impacts on them, their families and their communities.
"We had a strong start, however, we need the administration and Congress to act boldly and swiftly. The crisis has worsened, especially for racial and ethnic minority, LGBTQ+, rural and marginalized youth," said Warren Ng, MD, president of AACAP. "We are failing our youth if we do not take urgent and sustained action to put out the fire that is devastating young lives."
The organizations are calling for a robust and comprehensive mental health workforce strategy that prioritizes investments in training pediatric mental health and primary care professionals, including promoting relational health and trauma-informed care approaches.
“Today is about reemphasizing more must be done to address the current youth mental health crisis and supporting children and families to prevent future illness and tragedies,” said Amy Wimpey Knight, president of CHA. “Every child’s health—physical and mental—is a priority. The crisis impacts all children—from rural to urban areas, across all socio-economic backgrounds, regardless of race, ethnicity and gender. Congress has a chance to invest in the health and well-being of tomorrow’s adults, today.”
AAP, AACAP and CHA will continue to work to identify strategies to meet these challenges through innovation and action, to improve the access to and quality of care across the continuum of mental health promotion, prevention, treatment, maintenance and recovery.
American Academy of Pediatrics
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. www.aap.org
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) promotes the healthy development of children, adolescents, and families through advocacy, education, and research. Child and adolescent psychiatrists are the leading physician authority on children’s mental health. For more information, please visit www.aacap.org.