Doctors declare ‘national emergency’ in children’s mental health

TOPSHOT - Children listen to their teacher as they sit in a classroom on the first day of the start of the school year, at the Chaptal elementary school in Paris, on September 2, 2019. - In France some 12.4 million students crossed the doors of elementary schools (6.7 million), secondary school (3.4 million) and high schools (2.3 million) on September 2, 2019. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images)

TOPSHOT – Children listen to their teacher as they sit in a classroom. ( MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images)

UPDATED 12:14 PM PT – Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Health experts are raising alarms about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s mental health. During the pandemic, parents have reported grief, anxiety and depression among children while citing school closures and forced isolation as the primary culprits.

Medical advisors say the majority of hospitalizations during the recent Omicron surge in adolescents were not for complications of COVID-19, but due to behavioral health concerns including suicidal thoughts.

“Many of the things that our children are now dealing with — school, jobs, losing parents, losing family members, losing classmates, the news, ever-changing world — we didn’t have those things when we were growing up,” said Natasha Pierre, Dean of Mental Health Institute for Leadership and Lifelong Learning. “So the fatigue that adults are experiencing is also felt by our children, yet they lack the life experience and the vocabulary to articulate exactly what they’re feeling.”

A CDC study from the past decade found that one in five teens has experienced bouts of depression during their lifetimes, numbers which health experts say have dramatically risen during the pandemic. Doctors are now calling on parents to pay keen attention to their children’s mental health and take action in necessary instances.

“It’s important that if you see changes in your child — if they’re not doing well in school, if they’re withdrawing from activities and their friends, if they’re spending all their time in their room, if they’re only on social media and don’t really talk in person — those can all be red flags that something’s happening,” expalined Dr. Christina Canody, Medical Director of Baycare Pediatric Service Line.

Reports indicate overall emergency department visits by children have decreased each year since 2020 while visits for chronic illnesses, injuries, mental health and behavioral issues jumped during the same period.

This comes as less than 1.5 percent of all pediatric COVID-19 cases in the U.S. resulted in hospitalization. The low severity of coronavirus among young Americans has notably prompted many GOP lawmakers and doctors to question if the lockdowns had more damaging effects on children than the disease they were enacted to stop.

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