Health agencies call for national state of emergency in children’s mental health

WASHINGTON — Three national health organizations say children are facing a mental health crisis and they’re calling on lawmakers at every level to take action.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) are all declaring a state of emergency in children’s mental health.

These national agencies say the toll of the pandemic is really weighing on kids and causing higher rates of depression, anxiety and even suicide.

This is something single mom Micha James said she understands. She found a therapist for her son before the pandemic because she wanted him to have another black man to talk to in his life.

“It still takes a village to raise a child and it’s okay to need help and part of our village is a mental health provider,” said James.

She said this was a lifesaver when the pandemic hit and school closed.

“He was like, I just can’t keep doing this at home. It’s not working for me mentally,” she said.

But as classrooms reopened, another tragedy hit her son’s world. There was a deadly shooting at her son’s high school in September.

“He was compassionate, empathetic and sympathetic. But one of the main things he said is, I hope they let us go back to school. I can’t go through another year of virtual learning. That’s unfortunate that our students don’t have the ability or the option to say, ‘Hey, let me take a moment, let me step back,’” said James. “They did have two days away, but his focus is getting to that finish line and he knew in order to get to that finish line, he had to be back in person.”

“COVID should really be a wake-up call for us to make some key changes,” said Dr. Tamar Mendelson the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) want lawmakers to address this crisis taking several steps.

Some of those actions include increasing funds for school-based mental health care, fully funding community-based behavioral health services and improving technology access for telemedicine

“In additional trauma training for all the school personnel are really helpful so that folks are more sensitized in what young people are going through and how to respond in a supportive way,” said Dr. Mendelson.

These agencies also want increased access to mental health screenings for children and teens.

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