mental health

Jump in Suicide Attempts, ER Mental Health Visits Shows Stress of Pandemic on Kids

NBC Universal, Inc.

Jeanne Durso’s 13-year-old son has had a rough time during the course of the pandemic. Jeremy has learning disabilities and is transgender, which his mom says has made him a target in school.

"Jeremy would hide in different bathrooms in the school and cry, because he didn’t know how to process what was going on," Durso said.

But it's not just Durso — thousands of parents have been struggling to get their child help during the pandemic.

The American Academy of Pediatrics said that between March and Oct. 2020, mental health visits to emergency rooms jumped 24 percent for 5-11-year-olds, and 31 percent for 12-17-year-olds. Visits to the ER for suicide attempts are up 50 percent in 2021 for girls ages 12-17.

"The rate of suicidal ideation has about doubled. We are working with children and families who are on the precipice," said Dr. Janet Kahn-Scolaro, the administrative director of behavioral health at Mount Sinai South Nassau.

At her hospital, more than a quarter of pediatric ER visits are for mental health reasons. Why? Some attribute to pressures posed by the pandemic.

"You can get through a bit of stress if you have an end point, (but) this just seems to go on and on for them, and every day there’s something new," Dr. Kahn-Scolaro said.

At Cohen’s Children’s Hospital, there has been a 15 percent increase in pediatric mental health ER visits. Dr. Vera Feuer said that children most often show signs of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts or other behaviors exhibiting self-harm.

Doctors say patients are also getting younger, and are telling parents it’s never to early to start conversations about mental health and wellness with your children.

"They are more in touch with issues than previous generations," said Dr. Feuer. "Create an environment at home that they can bring issues to their parents."

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