Posted By Amanda Girard On November 11, 2021

Adolescent Behavioral Health: Solutions for a National Emergency

adolescent behavioral health emergency help

The AAP, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and Children’s Hospital Association have declared a national emergency for adolescent behavioral health. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the last decade has seen rates of childhood mental health conditions and suicide steadily rise. Since the pandemic, the increase of mental health emergencies and suspected suicide for youths has increased so much that these organizations are calling for emergency change by policy makers. 

What are the statistics?

In 2018, suicide was the second leading cause of death amongst 10-24 year olds. Throughout the pandemic, emergency department visits for mental health emergencies rose between 24%-31% for children aged 5-17 years. They rose nearly 51% from 2019 to early 2021 for suspected suicide attempts amongst girls aged 12-17 years.

How is COVID-19 impacting adolescent behavioral health?

COVID-19 has brought enormous adversity and disruption to children and families. Being more socially isolated, losing family members, and experiencing struggles innate to this pandemic has heavily impacted adolescent behavioral health. Our young people are experiencing soaring rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness, and suicidality. Young people in communities of color have been even more affected by this pandemic, highlighting how racial justice and inequities from structural racism are tied to our nation’s mental health crisis.

What actions are organizations urging policymakers to take?

The AAP, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and Children’s Hospital Association are urging policy makers to:

  • Increase federal funding to ensure all families can access mental health services.
  • Improve access to telemedicine.
  • Support effective models of school-based mental health care.
  • Accelerate integration of mental health care in primary care pediatrics.
  • Strengthen efforts to reduce the risk of suicide in children and adolescents.
  • Address ongoing challenges of the acute care needs of children and adolescents.
  • Fully fund community-based systems of care that connect families to evidence-based interventions.
  • Promote and pay for trauma-informed care services.
  • Address workforce challenges and shortages so that children can access mental health services no matter where they live.
  • Advance policies that ensure compliance with mental health parity laws.

What steps can your clinic take to help with this crisis?

Offering telehealth at your clinic, having staff trained in clinical assessment and with EHR tools to support Behavioral Health Integration, becoming a trauma informed organization, and increasing lines of communication through texting are just some of the ways your health care clinic can help this adolescent behavioral health crisis. Even ahead of policy changes – primary care, behavioral health care or other care clinics can start meeting adolescent patients’ needs by supporting whole person care through your EHR. Your healthcare agency can help with social justice issues by being informed on approaches and perspectives to Social Determinants of Health (SDOH). You can make sure to report out SDOH information to other organizations or health information sharing networks to make sure your youth have all of their needs met to lower both physical and mental health risks. This emergency does have actionable solutions. Make sure your Electronic Health Record system supports you being able to provide the best care possible to your adolescent patients.

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About Amanda Girard

Amanda is the Marketing Manager at Patagonia Health, a cloud and apps-based Electronic Health Records (EHR) software company serving Public and Behavioral Health. Amanda has a passion for serving those who serve in others in healthcare. She oversees the production of informative content on industry topics and health IT solutions.