“An unrelenting surge”: Doctors report more kids and teens hospitalized for mental health crises during pandemic

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Published: Feb. 9, 2022 at 8:48 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 9, 2022 at 9:41 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The COVID 19 pandemic is taking a serious toll on the mental health of children.

That’s the word from psychiatric doctors who report a quote “unrelenting surge” in child and teen hospitalizations, not from COVID, but acute mental health crises, particularly suicidal ideation, or behaviors.

Doctors advise parents to be on the lookout for a few things.

If you notice your child has lower self-esteem, is seeking constant reassurance, or is experiencing conflicts with others, it might be a red flag.

Another red flag is a drop in school or sports performance or avoiding school or sports altogether, but doctors report the biggest indicator of all, seems to be social withdrawal or isolation.

Doctor Pete Loper, a pediatric psychiatrist with Prisma Health says isolation brought on by COVID 19 has been very problematic.

“When you remove any human being, whether it be an adult or a child from meaningful personal interactions embedded in the context of community, they will experience maldevelopment,” Loper said.

“And the way that looks when you remove kids who are developing from integrating into their community and engaging in meaningful personal interactions, it looks like anxiety, depression and in some cases, suicidal ideation,” he said.

If you have concerns about your child’s mental health, there is help available. Primary care and pediatricians are a good first step.

From there you can get a referral to a counselor, and if counseling is not effective, medications might be recommended.

Beyond that, if the situation is severe, and your child is voicing intent to harm themselves or worse, that is considered a mental health crisis that warrants either a 911 call or a trip to the emergency room.

Just remember, help is always available.

Click here for a list of helpful resources.

On Wednesday, Prisma Health leaders offered some additional insight into how the pandemic has affected almost everybody mentally.

Between isolation, loneliness, fear, and anxiety over work and family health leaders say more people are reaching out for help, which doctors view as a very positive step.

Doctors say it doesn’t take much to improve the mental health of ourselves and those around us.

“Making sure that you reach out to friends and family- just check-in. If it’s a facetime call, or go for a walk,” Prisma Health’s Karen Lommel said.

Lommel also says if you’re walking through the store, and you happen to see someone, smile.

“If it’s someone you may not know, just offer that smile, as these small things may mean quite a bit with a lot of the challenges people are going through right now,” she said.

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