Tennessee kids grapple with mental health fallout of COVID-19 pandemic

Lena Weib

Pediatric health leaders are sounding the alarm over a growing number of mental health crises in children as the coronavirus pandemic continues. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Children’s Hospital Association jointly declared a national emergency in children’s mental health in October.

The groups pointed to an increasing number of childhood mental health crises and suicide rates from 2010 to 2018. The pandemic intensified those issues and worsened inequities, especially in communities of color, a news release from the groups stated.

“Children and families across our country have experienced enormous adversity and disruption,” the release said. “We are caring for young people with soaring rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness and suicidality that will have lasting impacts on them, their families and their communities.”

Between March and October 2020, emergency department visits for children with mental health emergencies rose by 24% among kids age 5-11 and 31% for kids age 12-17, compared with 2019 levels, according to CHA. There was more than a 50 percent increase in suspected suicide attempts among girls age 12-17 who made emergency department visits in early 2021, compared with the same period in 2019. 

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