Mental health emergency room visits on the rise for children

Updated: Apr. 28, 2021 at 5:34 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Virtual learning and a lack of social interaction has led to a rise in the need for urgent mental health resources for kids across the country. Now, a psychologist with UVA Health is offering parents timely advice.

“What I’ve heard is there’s been a higher proportion of emergency room visits nationwide that have been for mental health concerns,” Dr. Joey Tan, a clinical psychologist, said.

Emergency room visits for mental health needs increased for teens by 31% from 2019 to 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Part of this may be that there’s been some care delayed for physical health concerns, as well. Things that might have brought kids into the emergency room for that are maybe less likely to happen,” Tan said.

Tan says it’s up to parents and the community to spot a child who may be struggling.

“They might want to look at mood, how well their child is sleeping, words that they’re expressing, appetite, whether that’s increasing or decreasing, and things that just seem out of character for their kids,” Tan said.

Another sign to look out for is how well kids are going about their day: “If you’re noticing that your child’s life is getting a lot smaller, maybe they’re not wanting to go to school or to spend time with their friends outdoors or to do some of the things they might normally do that’s a really good sign that something is going,” Tan said.

If you’re reading this story and you’re struggling, Tan wants you to know that your feelings are normal and there are resources out there to help you feel better.

“There’s no wrong way to talk about what you might be feeling. What’s important is that it happens and that there’s a chance for other people to step in and help,” Tan said.

Dr. Tan advises parents to be very honest with their children if they are concerned that something may be wrong.

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