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Experts sound the alarm about America’s youth mental health crisis

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A high number of LGBTQ teens and youth struggle with mental health issues, according to a new survey by The Trevor Project.
Ute Grabowsky
Photothek via Getty Images
The pandemic — among other things — has taken a toll on children. The Biden administration is trying to address that with new funding for mental health awareness, training and treatment.

The nation’s top pediatric groups joined forces in October to declare a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health, pointing to preexisting challenges exacerbated by the pandemic and imploring policymakers to take actions to address them.

The declaration was followed by an official advisory from the U.S. Surgeon General that underscored “the urgent need to address the nation’s youth mental health crisis.”

The announcements cited a myriad of potential pandemic-related stressors, adversities and disruptions to kids’ lives including the loss of loved ones, the lack of in-person schooling, social interactions and other daily activities, and impeded access to food, housing and healthcare.

They also emphasized that negative mental health impacts have most heavily affected kids who were vulnerable to begin with.

Between March and October 2020, emergency department visits for children experiencing a mental health crisis rose 24% for children ages 5-11 and 31% for children ages 12-17, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Youth mental health challenges were already increasingly of concern before the pandemic. What is known about the contributing factors, and how have they been exacerbated since the emergence of COVID-19?

What recommendations do experts have for how to improve the status quo for America’s children and adolescents?

What disparities exist for diagnosis and treatment? What can be done to make mental health more accessible, affordable and equitable?

How can youth mental health be better incorporated into plans for a national recovery?


  • Amy Wimpey Knight, president of the Children's Hospital Association
  • Roshni Koli, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UT Austin's Dell Medical School and medical director of pediatric mental health services for Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas
  • Mary Beth Fisk, CEO and executive director of The Ecumenical Center, which hosts The Center for Young Minds

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org or tweet @TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Thursday, January 6.

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