Leading Pediatric Health Orgs Declare Mental Health Emergency for Children

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A group of leading American pediatric health organizations have declared a mental health emergency among children as a crisis mounts in the days since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association issued a joint statement declaring the emergency and detailing the sharp increase in mental health challenges faced by American children and teens.

The organizations called on lawmakers to work to make access to mental health resources more easily available, particularly for low-income families.

Over the last decade, youth suicide has been on the rise. In 2018, it was the second leading cause of death among children over 10.

However, during the pandemic, these already sobering figures have only increased.

Between March and October of last year, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and reported by CBN News, “emergency department visits for mental health emergencies rose by 24% for children ages 5-11 years and 31% for children ages 12-17 years.”

“In addition, emergency hospital visits for suspected suicide attempts increased nearly 51% among girls ages 12-17 years in early 2021 compared to the same period in 2019,” they also note.

“Anxiety and depression were at epidemic levels before the pandemic,” Christian psychiatrist Daniel Amen told the outlet. “Then if you add on top of that fear, loss, social isolation. What we saw was anxiety and depression double over the last 20 months.”

Dr. Amen says that social media is closely linked to mental health struggles in children.

“The more time a child spends on social media the worse they feel about themselves,” he said. “There’s a higher incidence of anxiety, depression, (poor) body image. So I think parents have to be careful and supervise the amount of time kids spend on these social media apps.”

Other medical health professionals that spoke with CBN News also pointed to poor nutrition and sleep habits that can exacerbate depression and anxiety.

This pandemic has been devastating for children, whose lives are just beginning as it so often feels like the world is crumbling around them. Many were cut off from school, church, and other social functions, as parents faced income insecurity and the pressure of providing for a family in frightening and unprecedented times.

Now more than ever, we need to make sure we are ministering to our children’s hearts and sharing the love of Christ with them in everything we do. They are our most important ministry field. Make sure you are tending to your own mental and spiritual health so that you can be present and offer reassurance and comfort to your children in these trying times, and don’t be afraid to seek help if you are concerned they are experiencing a mental health crisis.

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