Globally, mental health is being challenged like never before by COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, 1 in 5 of the world’s children and adolescents experienced some form of mental health condition. Since the pandemic began, UNICEF has expanded its mental health programming and advocacy from 67 countries to 116 countries.
UNICEF knows that anxiety, depression and other stress-related problems threaten children’s ability to grow up healthy and happy. Failure to address mental health and psychosocial issues can stall children’s development and bar them from opportunities to participate meaningfully in society. Most somberly, suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15- to 19-year-olds.
Mental health is a global issue, yet it remains stigmatized and underfunded in almost every country, rich or poor. Here in the U.S., children and youth are increasingly experiencing social isolation, loneliness and mental illness due to COVID-19. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report revealed that children’s mental health-related emergency room visits increased beginning April 2020 and remained elevated in October 2020. Mental health visits among children ages 5-11 and 12-17 years increased 24% and 31% respectively.
As U.S. government leaders continue to seek ways to provide COVID-19 support and relief, greater access to mental health services and psychosocial support for children, youth and their families must be a priority both in the short- and long-term.
Call on Congress to address the need for increased investment in mental health and psychosocial support for children in global programs as well as children in the U.S.