Proportion of Children Who Have Mental Health Emergencies Increasing Amid Pandemic

Proportion of Children Who Have Mental Health Emergencies Increasing Amid Pandemic
A general view of the CDC headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, on Sept. 30, 2014. (Tami Chappell/Reuters)
Paula Liu
The proportion of children seeking emergency visits for mental health has increased massively amid the pandemic, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Nov. 13.

Data from the CDC’s National Syndromic Surveillance Program (NSSP) was compared to that of the previous year and it was found that while the number of visits to the emergency department for both health (such as asthma, sprains, and injuries) and mental health have decreased, the proportion of mental health-related emergency visits had increased substantially.

Emergency Departments (ED) are commonly the first point of care for children’s mental health emergencies. This especially holds true when there are no other options or services accessible.

The data derives from hospitals from 47 different states in the United States, representative of 73 percent of all the ED visits.

“The proportion of mental health-related ED visits among children increased 66 percent, from 1,094 per 100,000 during April 14-21, 2019 to 1,820 per 100,000 during April 12-18, 2020,” the report read.

“Compared with 2019, the proportion of mental health-related visits for children aged 5-11 and 12-17 years increased approximately 24 percent and 31 percent, respectively,” the report read.

The report indicated that the increase in the proportion of emergency visits might be due to the increased stress that children experienced amid the pandemic.

“Many mental disorders commence in childhood, and mental health concerns in these age groups might be exacerbated by stress related to the pandemic and abrupt disruptions to daily life associated with mitigation efforts, including anxiety about illness, social isolation, and interrupted connectedness to school,” according to the report.

The report suggested that it would be best to help monitor the condition of young people and expand the number of services as well as access to them for children during the pandemic.

It comes as a new study (pdf) found that people, especially youths, experience worse symptoms of mental health amid the pandemic.

According to the study, an increased level of distress was present in people aged 16 and older in the United Kingdom.

“Our findings suggest that being young, a woman, and living with children, especially preschool-age children, have had a particularly strong influence on the extent to which mental distress increased under the conditions of the pandemic,” the study indicated.