PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Children’s mental health is now considered a national emergency according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and Children’s Hospital Association. The alarming statement stems from reports from the CDC showing mental health emergency visits are up 24% in children 5-11 and 31% in adolescents 12-17. The report also shows attempted suicides are up 51% in girls aged 12-17. “I’ve had a lot of my own students who have been hospitalized for mental health reasons and it’s really frightening,” says Elizabeth Strimbu, a high school guidance counselor.
Strimbu says the number of her students hospitalized with mental health issues has doubled this year. “Rather than cutting themselves, they’re actually thinking about like, what do I have to look forward to? What do I have ahead of me?” says Strimbu.
Lisa Strolman, a clinical psychologist, says the emergency declaration is late. She says people in her field have been trying to warn people about kids’ mental health during the pandemic for a year now. “It’s really frustrating having done this for 15-16 years where I can see the difference in pace and urgency as a clinician, as a mom, as a community member, where if we don’t do something now were going to see five years from now, 10 years down the road, a larger crisis on our hands,” said Strolman.
So what can be done? The emergency declaration laid out several courses of action.
- Increase federal funding to ensure all families can access mental health services.
- Improve access to telemedicine.
- Support effective models of school-based mental health care.
- Accelerate integration of mental health care in primary care pediatrics.
- Strengthen efforts to reduce the risk of suicide in children and adolescents.
- Address ongoing challenges of the acute care needs of children and adolescents.
- Fully fund community-based systems of care that connect families to evidence-based interventions.
- Promote and pay for trauma-informed care services.
- Address workforce challenges and shortages so that children can access mental health services no matter where they live.
- Advance policies that ensure compliance with mental health parity laws.
People who are struggling with suicidal thoughts are encouraged to dial 211.
Copyright 2021 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.