The Covid pandemic’s impact on the country has been well documented, but the less publicized mental health epidemic further stresses the hospital, especially the children. Now the country is slowly opening up back the health leaders, and policymakers need to prioritize action against children’s mental health.
Covid related school closer left a significant impact on kids who couldn’t participate in extracurricular activities, couldn’t socialize, and even did not go to any family function. These closer also left kids without access to the school-based health service and resources. Because of all these, kids are experiencing unusual stress.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported between April and October of last year U.S. hospitals saw a 24% increase in the proportion of mental health emergency department visits for kids ages 5 to 11. Adolescents, ages 12 to 17 grew by 31 percent. Because of this, hospitals are getting overloaded.
Last month, Dr. Tami Benton, Psychiatrist-in-Chief at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, gave the U.S. Senate evidence on the toll the mental health epidemic is taking on children, families, and their providers. He said, “Many of the children that we are seeing were managing well in their communities before the pandemic, receiving care in their local mental health agencies, schools and primary care offices but are now presenting for emergency care due to worsening symptoms.”
Benton’s evidence is consistent with the experiences of children’s hospitals across the country, where the hospital’s capacity is a major concern. Children’s hospital is the last resort for families seeking mental health care for their children. If they cannot access it, there will be no place for them to grow.
Due to mental health issues for years, suicides have been increasing among the youth. By 2018, suicides have become the 2nd leading cause of death for youth and young adults. Symptoms of mental health start appearing at a very early age. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. More than awareness, this issue requires action. Children’s hospitals should be the last option in fighting the mental care crisis facing our youth.