Mother spends time with teenage child with mental health issues.

National Emergency in Children’s Mental Health

There are many factors that can affect children’s mental health, such as struggling in school, living in social isolation, and missing major milestones. COVID-19 has affected the lives of everyone the last two years, but kids are missing out on major events in their life. 

Although everyone has struggled during the pandemic, children and teenagers are showing alarming numbers of suffering from mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Because of these rising numbers, the nation’s top pediatric health experts have raised a national emergency. The Surgeon General of the United States issued a public health advisory in response to the large amounts of youth reporting mental health challenges. 

Rising Mental Health Problems

In 2020, the CDC reported that 1 in 5 children were diagnosed with a mental health illness, but only 20% were receiving care from a mental health specialist. Approximately 70% of children and teenagers have said that the pandemic has affected their mental health. They have been issued to stay at home, socially isolate, have limited access to extracurricular activities, and miss many milestones. 

The percentage of mental health emergency visits for children ages 5 to 11 have risen by 24%. For kids and teenagers ages 12 to 17, the number has risen 31%. Suicide attempt emergency visits was 50% higher in 2021 compared to 2019 for girls ages 12 to 17. In addition, studies show that LGBTQ youth and children of color are at a higher risk of depression and anxiety amidst the pandemic. 

The Limitation of the Mental Health System

A significant issue in this crisis is that 75% of children and teens aren’t getting the help that they need. The pandemic has made it increasingly harder to access professional help. 

There are several reasons why families may struggle to get assistance, including lacking insurance coverage, not finding a provider in their area, or not realizing their children need help. 

Many schools also struggle to get enough mental health providers on their staff. The National Association of School Psychologists recommend one mental health professional per 500 students. Maine is the only state that currently meets that standard. 

To combat the crisis, parents, communities, and therapists need to help children. 

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