JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – According to a study from the journal Pediatrics, there has been a steady increase in the number of children seen in emergency rooms for behavioral health services, and the increase began even before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen record high demand for psychological help for children.
The fallout from the pandemic has brought renewed attention to suicide among teens and young children.
The Biden administration called the recent rise in depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation among children an “unprecedented mental health crisis.”
“Being at home, not having a daily routine, not being able to exercise, participating in extracurricular activities like band and choir, and just being with their peers, which is so important during adolescent growth period, so that they can become very successful adults,” said Dr. Terrie Andrews of Wolfson Children’s Hospital.
Andrews says Jacksonville is not immune to the trend.
“There are a few different reasons why we are seeing this trend. One is that more roofs are coming to the area. We haven’t really seen an increase in behavioral health beds in our region,” Andrews said.
Wolfson Children’s Hospital says it treated 1,280 patients ages 0 to 17 in hospitalization, observation or emergency department in 2016. In 2021, that number was 1,562.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has really taken a toll on everyone’s lives, especially children and adolescents. There are many different factors which we assume are some of the reasons. One is the lack of structure. As much as adolescents say they don’t want structure, everyone needs structure,” Andrews said.
What are the warning signs of a mental health crisis? Wolfson Children’s Hospital says withdrawn behavior, hopelessness, irritability, and making statements like “I don’t want to be here anymore” or “everyone would be better off without me” are some of them.
Wolfson Children’s Hospital says there are a few steps adolescents can take to prevent their mental health from deteriorating.
“The most important thing to do is make sure you talk to someone,” Andrews said. “Whether it’s the school counselor, our schools now often have licensed mental health therapists, school counselors, teachers, parents, friends, coaches are very important. “
Wolfson Children’s says another way to avoid a mental health crisis is quite simple: family time. The hospital says it’s important to sit down and eat as a family or do outdoor activities together.
Wolfson also has resources available for parents and children to help prevent a mental health crisis from unfolding.
On our sleeves offers a wealth of free downloadable content to help adults have conversations about mental health with children and teens and their lives. In addition, parents and children can call the 24/7 helpline for children and teens at 904-202-7900 or text LIFE to 741741 to immediately connect with a trained mental health professional for assessment, stabilization, and referral for aftercare if needed. If a child poses a direct threat to themselves or others, call 911 or take them to the nearest emergency room Wolfson Children’s Emergency Center.
Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health issues, call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or visit the hotline’s website.
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