Child and Adolescent Mental Health

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that as many as 1 in 5 children and adolescents in the United States have a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder, but only about 20% of this population ever receives care from a specialized mental health provider.

Now, as a result of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for accessible, high quality behavioral health care for children and adolescents is even greater. From March 2020 to October 2020, mental health-related emergency department visits increased 24% for children ages 5-11 and 31% for those ages 12-17, as compared with 2019 emergency department visit data. Additionally, as of fall 2022, weekly ED visits among females were at or higher than the pre-pandemic baseline for mental health conditions overall, suicide-related behaviors and drug overdoses.

Hospitals and health systems can play an important role in ensuring children and adolescents receive the behavioral health care they need to thrive. As part of AHA’s behavioral health initiatives, this webpage is designed to provide information, resources, and best practices to better support hospitals and health systems in addressing child and adolescent mental health.


People Matter, Words Matter

Are You Using Caring and Concerned Language About Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health?

Language matters in compassionate care, and that is not just limited to what you say in front of a patient. What you say behind closed doors to coworkers, friends and family can be the seed for stigma, and not recognizing cultural differences may lead people to distrust and avoid treatment. After experiencing a traumatic event, many people struggle to share their experiences and reactions with others. What you say matters in helping the survivor feel safe and understood.


Child and Adolescent Mental Health Resources

Nov 23, 2022
To better meet the needs of their community Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters (CHKD) engaged in an initiative to transform pediatric mental health services through dedication and partnerships.
Nov 23, 2022
Rady Children’s leaders in 2015 set forth a strategic plan to transform mental health by treating the whole child, integrating physical and behavioral health. Leaders also met informally with a group of 20 local health academics, pediatricians, psychologists, social workers and other community members over the course of two years to develop a multi-pronged model for early detection and treatment of behavioral health needs in young people.
Oct 21, 2022
UK HealthCare has been serving Lexington and its surrounding communities since 1962. Home to a Level I Trauma Center and a Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, UK HealthCare is committed to ensuring that every Kentuckian, no matter how sick they are, has access to quality care.
Jun 22, 2022
In this Members in Action podcast, Julia Resnick, director of strategic initiatives at the AHA, and Thomas Harris, Jr., Executive Vice President of Operations at Gillette Children’s in Saint Paul, Minnesota, discuss how Gillette Children’s virtual rehab program has enabled them to better serve their patients.
May 27, 2022
Between 2011 and 2015, the number of children presenting to the ED for behavioral health concerns at Rady Children’s Hospital increased by 500%.

Get Help Now

If you or a loved one are experiencing an emotional crisis or thoughts of suicide, support is available. The following services provide free, confidential support and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For emotional support related to COVID-19, call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746.

For those experiencing a suicidal crisis, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or text the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.


In the News

May 10, 2023
In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, AHA’s People Matter, Words Matter campaign has released a new poster to support child and adolescent behavioral health.
Jan 9, 2023
The Health Resources and Services Administration today awarded nearly $60 million over five years to help 24 health care and educational organizations integrate mental health training into training for primary care clinicians, with a focus on preparing them to treat mental health needs in children and adolescents.
Oct 12, 2022
The panel also recommended screening children aged 12-18 for major depressive disorder, as it did in 2016.

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