EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — The COVID-19 pandemic is blamed for more than being a physical health threat to children. It’s also causing a severe spike in child and adolescent mental health issues.
There is no denying that much of the medical attention these past two years focused on protecting children’s physical health.
But a new CDC report reveals disturbing numbers of young people experiencing mental health problems and needing treatment.
How troubling is the data concerning young people and their mental health? The CDC reports one in five teenagers in the U.S. experienced at least one episode of major depression. And that was before the pandemic hit.
“As early as 2018, we were already seeing increasing er visits for suicidality, anxiety, depression, and self-harm in children as young as 5-years-old all the way to late teens,” said Dr. Alvaro Reymunde, MD, Pediatrician, PAK Pediatrics.
More than a third of high school students reported in 2019 feeling persistently sad or hopeless. Statistics like that pushed PAK Pediatrics toward actively screening young patients for their mental health, an increasing need since coronavirus entered the conversation.
“It was just a recipe for disaster when you combined the isolation, the restrictions, the homeschooling, both parents working, food insecurity leading to eating disorders,” said Dr. Reymude.
Pak Pediatrics recently added child behavioral specialists to its staff.
“You don’t know what’s going on inside someone’s head unless they either express it or you start seeing changes in behavioral patterns and, you know, it’s hard to detect changes in behavioral patterns,” explained Michael Kelley, Ph.D., LP, BCBA-D, Psychologist, PAK Pediatrics.
Girls generally had higher levels of depression than boys. Children as young as pre-school experienced anxiety. It’s a call for more than parents to look for the signs.
“We do talk to teachers about that sort of thing. Teachers, when they see kids if they see changes in their behavior that are more subtle that might not come across to other people it just means communication is going to be key,” said Dr. Kelley.
The troubling signs to watch for include sudden changes in behavior, falling grades and fewer friends, and losing interest in activities that previously brought enjoyment.