COLUMBUS, Ohio — A group of the nation's top pediatric health experts have declared children's mental health a national emergency. 

What You Need To Know

  • Pediatric health experts declare children's mental health a national crisis

  • In 2020, mental health pediatric visits increased 25% in children 5-11, 30% in children 12-17 

  • Dr. Chris Peltier discusses warning signs and how parents can seek help

​​Pediatrician and President Elect of the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics Dr. Chris Peltier said he started seeing more children for mental health visits before the pandemic. 

“The pandemic has made it worse,” said Peltier. 

In 2020, office visits were up 25% for children ages 5-11 and 30% for children 12-17. That’s why a group of the nation’s top pediatric health experts including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Children’s Hospital Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry have declared children’s mental health as a national emergency.

“It really was meant to highlight that this is a huge problem,” said Peltier. “By declaring it a crisis, it helps us think about ‘How do we mobilize resources?’ It’s a way for parents to understand this is an issue and your kids may be struggling with this.”

Sarah Frank and her husband have two children, ages 7 and 4. She said raising them the last year and a half has been a challenge. 

“Things have changed so rapidly and that's been really hard to explain to little kids,” said Frank. “I think that’s been one of the toughest part about being a parent in the pandemic.”

She said the constant change has been especially hard on her son, Caleb, who had anxiety before the pandemic.

“Once they went back to school last December, that anxiety hit a new level because we had done remote, we did hybrid, we went back to all in for a week or two then we were back to remote,” said Frank.

She said with the help of resources like guidance counselors, teachers and coaches, he’s now able to better manage his anxiety. 

Peltier said parents should monitor changes in behavior, including changes in school performance, social interaction, appearance, sleeping habits and mood.

“Those are all signs there may be something going on with either anxiety of depression,” said Peltier.

If parents notice changes in their children’s behavior, Peltier recommends scheduling a visit with the pediatrician. ​