Colorado: In January the Superintendent of the Clark County School District in Nevada expressed concerns about Covid restrictions creating a mental health crisis in the district's children and urged that schools needed to re-open for their mental health.
The CDC even acknowledges a sharp increase in "mental health-related emergency department visits" among children between just March 29 and April 25, 2020, and that numbers "remained elevated through October." Over that single month's time when comparing numbers to the previous year, emergency room visits increased by 24% for children between 5 and 11, and 31% for those between 12 and 17 years old.
Now Children's Hospital Colorado has declared a "State of Emergency" concerning the mental health of youth, announcing that "suicide has become the leading cause of death for Colorado's children."
At a roundtable event held on May 25 for the pediatric mental health department, Children's Hospital Colorado CEO Jena Housmann made the announcement.
"Right now," she said, "Colorado's children uniquely need our help. It has been devastating to see suicide become the leading cause of death for Colorado's children. For over a decade, Children's Colorado has intentionally and thoughtfully been expanding our pediatric mental health prevention services, outpatient services, and inpatient services, but it is not enough. Now we are seeing our pediatric emergency departments and our inpatient units overrun with kids attempting suicide and suffering from other forms of major mental health illness."
David Brumbaugh, MD, Chief Medical Officer for Children's Colorado has worked for more than 20 years in pediatrics and stated, "I've never seen anything like the demand for mental health services we've seen at Children's Colorado in the past 15 months. There have been many weeks in 2021 that the number one reason for presenting to our emergency department is a suicide attempt. Our kids have run out of resilience— their tanks are empty."
Emergency transport teams have asked for additional training with regards to child suicide as they are reporting seeing three or four attempts per week.
Director of Psychology Training at Children's Colorado, Jenna Glover MD expressed that many children are feeling a sense of "hopelessness" and she expressed concern that this is not something that will just go away as the residual restrictions are lifted.
"Despite things getting better in terms of COVID-19, kids have dealt with chronic stress for the past y4ear that has interrupted their development. Now kids are asked to be starting back into life again, and they don't have the resources to do that. They're burned out, and they feel so behind they don't know how to catch up," Glover stated.
The hospital announced that it has been working to not only expand their services available, both inpatient and outpatient, by over 50% by March 2022, but also to expand facilities to create for space for patients.
"But it's not enough," Chief Nursing Executive Pat Givens, DHA stated. "We're still in crisis mode."
In the past two years the demand for behavioral health treatment at Children's Colorado has seen a 90% increase, a trend reflected across Colorado counties.
According to the statement on their site, the emergency department at Children's Colorado in Colorado Springs, built just two years ago, which services southern Colorado is already over capacity.
"We can't depend on building beds to get out out of this," Michael DiStefano, MD, Chief Medical Officer for Colorado Children's Southern Region stated. "If we're building acute beds, we are losing the battle against suicide and behavioral heath problems with our teens. We need to be intervening prior to the crisis."
Last year one father, Brad Hunstable spoke out about his own son's suicide as a direct result of the lockdowns that had been instated in a viral video.
Even NPR recently discussed the mental health crisis faced by children where Dr. Nichole Christian-Brathwaite out of Boston stated that the number of calls she received over the past year "increased exponentially."