A Pediatric Mental Health Crisis

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Pediatric mental health is a crisis in the USA. In October of 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) declared a National State of Emergency in Children’s Mental Health. This was followed by the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issuing a Surgeon General’s Advisory to highlight the urgent need to address the nation’s youth mental health crisis in December 2021.

How did the pandemic lead to this? Experts attribute this to –

  • Disruption in routines

  • The need to physically distance from loved ones

  • An overabundance of reliance on virtual communication tools

This is admittedly a fairly recent area of focus in the broader field of psychology and mental wellness, but there has been more attention given to this topic in the last year. The journal “Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America” released an article in January 2022 titled “Social and Relational Health Risks and Common Mental Health Problems Among US Children: The Mitigating Role of Family Resilience and Connection to Promote Positive Socio-emotional and School-Related Outcomes”. Even to a non-clinical reader, the abstract is very revealing –

Nearly 70% (67.6%) of US children with mental, emotional, and behavioral problems (MEB) experienced significant social health risks (SHR) and/or relational health risks (RHR). Shifts are needed in child mental health promotion, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment to address both RHR and SHR. Public health approaches are needed that engage families, youth, and the range of child-serving professionals in collaborative efforts to prevent and mitigate RHR and SHR and promote positive mental health at a community level. Building strong family resilience and connection may improve SR and, in turn, academic and social outcomes among all US children with or without MEB.


The Center Disease Control (CDC)’s Parental Resources Kit for children (ages 6-12) recognizes that “… having to physically distance from someone you love—like a grandparent, friends…can be hard for children. It is important for adults to support children in taking time to check in with friends and family to see how they are doing.”  They suggest one way to support children would be to “Write cards or letters to family members they may not be able to visit.”

The importance of family bonds and maintaining those relationships keep emerging as regular themes in all academic and social commentary around children’s mental wellness. But who is responsible for maintaining that? Does that fall on the parents? How can family members be active participants in these interactions? And finally, what can be done to encourage and sustain this communication in a way that the child directly recognizes the role of these other adult figures in their life?

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