“Sound The Alarm For Kids” Raises Awareness Of National Mental Health Emergency In Children And Teens

Children’s Hospitals and Child Health Groups Call on Congress to Act 

WASHINGTON, DC – Representing more than 200 children’s hospitals and 77,000 physicians, the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists (AACAP) have launched Sound the Alarm for Kids urging Congress to enact legislation and increase funding to address a national mental health emergency in children and teens. Sound the Alarm for Kids has activated an advertising effort with digital ads in the Washington Post and Politico and radio spots on WTOP-FM. Video ads will begin airing shortly. Over 75 groups have pledged their support recognizing children’s mental health as a national emergency.  

“We are facing a significant national mental health crisis in our children and teens which requires urgent action,” said Amy Wimpey Knight, president of CHA. “In the first six months of this year, children’s hospitals across the country reported a shocking 45 percent increase in the number of self-injury and suicide cases in 5- to 17-year-olds compared to the same period in 2019. Together with the AAP, AACAP and other national child health and mental health organizations, we are sounding the alarm on this mental health emergency.”

“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,” said AAP President Lee Savio Beers, MD, FAAP. “We must treat this mental health crisis like the emergency it is, which is why AAP is joining CHA and AACAP in sounding the alarm.”

“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 our futures. That is why AACAP is joining AAP and CHA in this effort. The time for swift and deliberate action is now,” said AACAP President, Gabrielle A. Carlson, MD.  

The rate of mental health emergencies among children have significantly increased during the pandemic: 

  • a 25% increase in overall mental health-related emergency department visits for 5- to 11-year-olds from 2019 to 2020 
  • a 31% increase in overall mental-health-related emergency department visits for 12- to 17-year-olds from 2019 to 2020 
  • a 14% increase in mental health emergencies for 5- to 17-year-olds seen at children’s hospitals in the first two quarters of 2021 compared to the same time period in 2019 

For more information about Sound the Alarm for Kids or how to get involved, please visit: https://www.soundthealarmforkids.org/


Sound the Alarm for Kids Partner Organizations’ Statements

Mental health has never been as prominent in our national conversation, and our concern for young people is at the forefront of this change. We must take the needs of our young people seriously and show them the country is listening and taking action. This is what the National Mental Health Emergency for Kids initiative is all about—doing everything we can to support the mental wellbeing of our youth. And it will ensure that no matter where a child lives, goes to school or what their financial situation may be, they can access the care and support they need and deserve.

Bob Gebbia, Chief Executive Officer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention


The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected the behavioral health and emotional well-being of children and adolescents, worsening many of the disturbing trends we have been seeing for several years. The impacts on youth from vulnerable populations, including communities of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and those with disabilities, have been particularly deleterious. The American Psychological Association is proud to join the Sound the Alarm campaign to call attention to the national emergency of children’s mental health and urge lawmakers to enact policies that will address this critical issue in equitable and sustainable ways.

Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, CEO of the American Psychological Association


Over the last two years, America’s children, youth, and emerging adults have encountered endless unknowns, interpersonal loss, complicated pain, untenable expectations, and disenfranchised grief—in many ways unlike any generation before them.  It is our duty to ensure young people are seen and their experiences honored. We have a tendency to relegate these folks to the sidelines with terms like ‘the future of America’, perhaps not stopping for long enough to see they are part of our society right now. Present tense. While our intentions may prove heartfelt, those words can sting, and rob from them the dignity they’re due as fellow citizens who have suffered profound losses—meaningful people and meaningful experiences that are neither recoverable nor replaceable. If we create some intentional time to talk with them, ask them about their experiences, listen hard to their stories—while resisting the urge to infantilize their feelings by playing the ‘wizened fixer’ role with all the answers—if we can do that, we might just learn something incredible about them, about each other, about yourself, or about our common humanity. Growing up is hard, to be sure; hopefully we can do that, as our younger citizens need is to rise to just such an occasion.

Chase Banister MDIV, MSW, LCSW, CEDS, Board President,
Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action


It’s long past time to sound the alarm for children’s mental health. Kids have suffered immeasurably during the COVID-19 pandemic, which exposed what we already knew: Children are in the midst of a mental health crisis. We must take a fresh look at how to provide the best mental health services to our children and adolescents and Congress must deliver these resources. We can do better — and our children can’t wait.  

Bruce Lesley, President, First Focus on Children


The latest data from SAMHSA show that almost 3 million adolescents had serious thoughts of suicide last year, with more than 1 million who said they made suicide plans. These statistics are even more troubling as we face significant shortages across behavioral healthcare professions and treatment settings. We are eager to work with policymakers, workforce agencies, and partner organizations to identify where the gaps in access to care are—and how we can fill those gaps.

Shawn Coughlin, President and CEO, National Association for Behavioral Healthcare


COVID-19 has had many dire consequences, including the catastrophic emotional turmoil thrust upon our youth, who were in no way equipped to navigate the uncertainties of a global pandemic. It’s time to listen to our experts and address this crisis head on by improving access to care; building a larger, more diverse workforce of providers; and prioritizing prevention and early intervention efforts. As a former educator, I’ve seen first-hand the long-term ramifications of untreated mental health challenges. We cannot stand idly by when the futures of so many are at risk.

Amy Kennedy, Education Director of The Kennedy Forum


When it comes to mental health and suicide among young people, we are in the midst of a public health crisis that requires our immediate attention and comprehensive action. We know these issues disproportionately impact LGBTQ youth, and LGBTQ youth of color in particular, yet prevention programs too often take a one-size-fits-all approach and intersectional research and policies are lacking. We must sound the alarm for this crisis and specifically confront the disparities among marginalized communities.

Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project