Experts warn of mental health ‘epidemic’ for kids amid delta variant fears

Seventeen-year-old Amy Cerna Sanchez loved playing soccer. However, her world came to a screeching halt last year when she says her refuge was ripped away from her. “Being locked up in the house was a little bit difficult since I was already struggling with both my anxiety and depression. So it kind of just went downhill from there,” Cerna Sanchez said.

Amy is one of countless teenagers across the country who struggled mentally and emotionally during the pandemic.

In May, Children’s Hospital Colorado declared a mental health state of emergency due to the number of kids seeking treatment for suicidal thoughts and other mental health issues. According to the hospital, behavioral health emergency room visits shot up 72% statewide between January and April of this year compared to the same period in 2019.

Across the country, the National Institute for Health Care Management reports that mental health-related emergency room visits jumped for both younger and older kids between mid-March and October of 2020 compared to the same time in 2019.

Some medical experts are predicting another surge of kids seeking help in the fall.

“A lot of my colleagues anticipate there being really an epidemic,” said Robert Franks, President and CEO of the Judge Baker Children’s Center at Harvard Medical School.

Some experts say a major threat to kids is the uncertainty of whether schools will reopen as a result of the spread of the Delta variant.

“There was this sense of, ‘We’re returning to normal,’ and now we actually aren’t sure if that’s the case or not,” Jenna Glover, director of psychology training at Children’s Hospital Colorado, said. – READ MORE