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Kids attending school in Los Angeles, California. Photo: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Three major pediatric health groups declared on Tuesday a national state of emergency in children's mental health.

The big picture: Rates of childhood mental health issues and suicide had been rising since 2010 but worsened significantly in the last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing social unrest around racial justice.

Why it matters: Hospital visits for mental health emergencies and suspected suicide attempts rose drastically, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and Children’s Hospital Association (CHA).

  • Emergency department visits for mental health emergencies rose by 24% for children from the ages of 5 to 11 from March and October 2020, according to a statement released by the groups Tuesday.
  • It rose 31% for children ages 12 to 17 during that same time period.
  • In the first six months of 2021, there was a 45% increase in the number of self-injury and suicide cases in 5- to 17-year-olds compared to the same period in 2019.

State of play: A study released this month from the Child Mind Institute found that 55% of children felt more "sad, depressed or unhappy" as a result of the pandemic.

  • About 70% of children and adults reported some degree of mental discomfort reflected in loneliness, irritability or fidgetiness, according to the report.

Of note: The AAP, AACAP and CHA noted that communities of color were disproportionally impacted by the mental health crisis due to "inequities that result from structural racism."

  • More than 140,000 children in the United States lost a primary or secondary caregiver due to COVID-19, but youth of color were disproportionately impacted, according to the statement.

Details: The three pediatric groups also called for increased federal funding for mental health screening, diagnosis and treatment, as well as for suicide prevention programs in schools.

What they're saying: AACAP President Gabrielle A. Carlson said that the "ongoing public health emergency has made a bad situation worse."

  • "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, their communities, and all of our futures," Carlson said.
  • “Young people have endured so much throughout this pandemic, and while much of the attention is often placed on its physical health consequences, we cannot overlook the escalating mental health crisis facing our patients,” AAP President Lee Savio Beers said.

Go deeper

16 hours ago - Health

Nearly all U.S. cases of Omicron are mild, CDC director says

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Pool via Getty Images

Of the more than 40 known cases of the Omicron variant in the U.S., nearly all are mild, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday in an interview with AP.

Why it matters: Concern has ramped up with health experts forecasting a rise in Omicron cases. Over three-quarters of U.S. patients had been vaccinated, and one-third had gotten their booster shots, according to Walensky.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
20 hours ago - Health

Ex-FDA chief: COVID jabs could become as common as flu shots

Photo by Alex Edelman-Pool/Getty Images

Former FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn tells Axios that Americans may eventually require annual COVID vaccination boosters, although acknowledges that right now it's just his "best guess."

Why it matters: COVID jabs could become as routine as flu shots.

21 hours ago - Health

Fauci: It's "when, not if" definition of "fully vaccinated" changes

NIAID director Anthony Fauci told CNN Wednesday that in his personal opinion, "it's going to be a matter of when, not if," the definition of "fully vaccinated" changes.

What he's saying: Fauci said he doesn't see the definition "changing tomorrow or next week," but he believes it's "going to be considered literally on a daily basis."