• Family Physicians Urge Policymakers to Focus on Mental Health Care for Children, Families

    Tuesday, October 26, 2021

    Statement attributable to:
    Sterling N. Ransone, Jr., MD, FAAFP
    American Academy of Family Physicians

    “Stress, uncertainty, and anxiety brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have placed mental health at the forefront of the health care conversation. Because family physicians and their primary care colleagues play a critical role in identifying mental health conditions, ensuring equitable access to mental health care, and reducing the stigma of mental illness, the American Academy of Family Physicians supports the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association in declaring children’s mental health a national emergency.

    “The need to better integrate mental health care and primary care for children and adults has never been more urgent. More work must be done to eliminate barriers to care, and family physicians are part of the solution. They receive extensive training in caring for patients with depression and other mental illnesses, and patients benefit when they receive care from a physician who knows and understands their entire health history. Family physicians are well equipped to identify mental health needs early and provide appropriate care, which includes collaboration with other mental and behavioral health professionals if necessary.

    “Research shows that one in five children and adolescents experiences a mental health condition each year, with half of adult mental illness presenting by age 14 and 75 percent by age 24. Family physicians are a primary source of mental health care in the U.S., with almost a third of the care for serious mental illness and a quarter of prescriptions for serious mental illness taking place in a primary care setting.

    “Family medicine emphasizes the link between physical and mental health. Without family physicians, the nearly one in five U.S. adults who will experience some form of mental illness each year may go untreated. To that end, the AAFP has long advocated for the maintenance and expansion of state, federal, and private insurance funding of mental health care services for all.

    “Conversations about mental health might be difficult, but they are critically important to our personal and public health. If we’re not advocating for improved mental health care for our patients of all ages as well as their families, we’re falling short of our duty.”

    Editor's Note: To arrange an interview with Dr. Ransone, contact Julie Hirschhorn, 202-655-4949, or jhirschhorn@aafp.org.  


    About American Academy of Family Physicians
    Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 130,000 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the largest medical society devoted solely to primary care. Family physicians conduct approximately one in five office visits — that’s 192 million visits annually or 48 percent more than the next most visited medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care. To learn more about the specialty of family medicine and the AAFP's positions on issues and clinical care, visit www.aafp.org. For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, please visit the AAFP’s consumer website, www.familydoctor.org.