One of the major causes for the rise in mental health problems among children is the rise in the number of school-aged children who experience these disorders. As a result, more students are now reporting incidents of self-harm, suicide thoughts, and other mental health problems. In fact, a study of nearly 40 children’s hospitals found that 14,630 children aged five to 18 made emergency room visits last year. Children’s hospital president Amy Knight moderated a congressional briefing on the growing mental health crisis among children.
While the CDC has credited the pandemic with intensifying the mental health crisis among youth, the problems didn’t begin this school year. In fact, recent studies have shown that the effects of the pandemic may have already begun to manifest in the escalating number of emergency room visits for children. Last month, the Children’s Hospital Association declared the youth mental health crisis a national emergency. The U.S. Surgeon General is advising parents to be prepared for this crisis.
Aside from the COVID-19 pandemic, other factors may also be affecting the mental health of children. For example, social distancing and stay-at-home orders may result in a rise in children’s loneliness, which is linked to poor mental health outcomes. Income insecurity may also increase the number of children suffering from mental health issues, increasing the possibility of child abuse. While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a significant shortage in children’s mental health care, remote learning could be a solution to this problem.
In addition to these factors, researchers have found that more than 5 million children suffer from a serious mental illness that interferes with their daily lives. About 20% of children in the U.S. will suffer from at least one form of mental illness during any given year. The term “mental illness” is often used incorrectly, as there are a wide range of physical factors that can contribute to a mental disorder. And many mental disorders can be treated with psychotherapy and medication.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted children in many ways, from school closures to social isolation and gaps in health care access. Parents of children in affected communities have reported poor mental health outcomes, especially in their early years. Twenty-nine percent of parents reported that their child’s mental health had suffered during the pandemic, and another thirty-one percent said their child’s mental health was worse than before. A lack of sleep has also negatively affected their mental health.
Although the overall number of children with mental health issues is increasing, the effects on LGBTQ children are especially dire. According to a non-probability survey conducted in the Fall of 2020, large shares of LGBTQ youth reported experiencing depression and anxiety in the past two weeks. Another study found that forty percent of LGBTQ youth reported seriously considering suicide in the past year. These findings are alarming considering the fact that LGBTQ children are already more likely to develop substance use problems and develop depression.