Over the past two decades, rates of depression and suicide have been rising in children, teens, and young adults. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, 1 in 5 children under age 18 experienced a mental health condition. From 2007 to 2018, there was a 60% increase in the rate of suicide among 10- to 14-year-olds, making it the second leading cause of death for this age group.
The pandemic exacerbated this ongoing and significant crisis in children's mental health by causing disruptions in daily routine, social isolation, financial insecurity, and grief for many children and families. In just the first half of 2021, children’s hospitals across the country reported a 45% increase in the number of cases of self-injury and suicide in children ages 5-17 than during the same period in 2019.
“We’ve actually never seen the rapid rate of rise of mental health conditions for populations that we’ve seen due to the pandemic,” said Tami D. Benton, MD, Psychiatrist-in-Chief of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at CHOP. “A rise of this magnitude typically doesn’t happen unless there’s a catastrophic event of global significance.”
The Children’s Hospital Association, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, recently launched the Sound the Alarm for Kids campaign which aims to highlight the need for immediate federal, state, and local support to help providers meet the demand for services, exacerbated by the pandemic. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is proud to partner with these national leaders on children’s wellbeing in this fast-growing effort to spread the word about the country’s pediatric mental health crisis.
“One silver lining to the pandemic is that healthcare organizations around the country have banded together to address an issue we are all facing,” said Dr. Benton. “Mental health interventions work, and if we can grant access to the children who need it, these conditions don’t have to be terrible things without solutions.”