American psychiatrists and pediatricians have warned that fear, grief, uncertainty, and isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic have triggered a state of national emergency in the mental health of America’s youth, according to US News.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), and the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) said that youngsters already faced significant mental health challenges, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made them worse.

AAP President Dr. Lee Savio Beers said, “Children’s mental health is suffering. 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.”

“Today’s declaration is an urgent call to policymakers at all levels of government,” she added. “We must treat this mental health crisis like the emergency it is.”

The associations found that the percentage of ER visits for mental health issues increased by 24% among children aged between 5 and 11 and by 31% among children aged between 12 and 17 from March to October 2020.

In addition, there were 50% more suspected suicide attempt-related ER visits among girls aged between 12 and 17 in early 2021.

Furthermore, during the pandemic, more than American children suffered the loss of a primary or secondary caregiver.

AACAP President Dr. Gabrielle Carlson said, “We were concerned about children’s emotional and behavioral health even before the pandemic. 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,” she added. “We cannot sit idly by. This is a national emergency, and the time for swift and deliberate action is now.”

The associations said policymakers should increase funding to make sure all families have access to mental health services. They also said policymakers should improve telemedicine access, support effective school-based mental health care, and strengthen efforts to reduce youth suicide risk.

CHA President Amy Wimpey Knight said, “We are facing a significant national mental health crisis in our children and teens which requires urgent action.”

“In the first six months of this year, children’s hospitals across the country reported a shocking 45% increase in the number of self-injury and suicide cases in 5- to 17-year-olds compared to the same period in 2019,” she added. “Together with the AAP and the AACAP, we are sounding the alarm on this mental health emergency.”