‘State of emergency;’ Children’s mental health crisis at tipping point, pediatricians say

Some top pediatric doctors have declared a “national state of emergency” for children’s mental health as limited services and some effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have put the situation at a critical tipping point.

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New data released by the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry indicate a worsening situation in terms of mental health crises in children.

From March 2020 to October 2020, the percentage of emergency room visits for children with mental health emergencies climbed 24 percent in children ages 5 to 11. For children between the ages of 12 and 17, emergency room visits for mental health emergencies climbed 31 percent, according to the data released Tuesday.

Additionally suicide has become the second leading cause of death for children aged between 10 and 24.

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“We’re seeing many more kids with health concerns and more serious concerns,” Dr. Lee Savio Beers, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics told News Center 7′s Gabrielle Enright Tuesday.

Beers added the pandemic has worsened the situation and has forced many kids to experience isolation and loss.

“Over 140,000 children in the U.S. alone have lost a caregiver to COVID-19 and that’s something that impacts a child for a lifetime,” Beers said.

Beers encourages parents to pay close attention to their child’s behavior, especially if the child starts to act withdrawn or depressed, show anger, act out, or if their grades start to slip in school. Beer said any of those signs could be an early indication the child is experiencing a mental health crisis.

“The earlier we can identify mental health concerns, the better. So don’t be afraid to reach out and talk about it. It could be a live-saving intervention,” Beers said.

Beers said the Dayton-area has a top-notch institution to help children battling mental health crises at Dayton Children’s Hospital. Beers applauded the hospital’s inpatient behavioral health unit, but said more work needs to be done across the country.

“There weren’t enough services before the pandemic and there certainly are not enough services now,” Beers said.

To fix and address the lack of services, Beers and others in the medical field are encouraging lawmakers to prioritize children’s mental health and allocate more funding to it.