A “60 Minutes” story really got my attention. The mental health crises among our young people.
Suicide. It was happening pre-pandemic. It got worse during and since.
Sharyn Alfonsi tells the story. She talked to young people who have considered taking their own lives. Why? In many cases, it was the isolation during the pandemic.
These young people talked about being stuck inside their homes for days. Weeks. Months. Virtual school. Extreme loneliness.
I think we are just beginning to understand the toll of the pandemic. Not just our physical health, but our mental health too.
This story is all over the New York Times today too. It talks about how hundreds of suicidal teens sleep in emergency rooms every night.
Why? No openings in treatment centers. There’s no other place for them to go. The wait to get into a mental health facility can be days, even weeks.
The CDC reports that mental health disorders are surging among adolescents. In 2019, 13 percent of adolescents reported having a major depressive episode. That’s a sixty percent increase from 2007. Suicide rates also increased by nearly sixty percent.
While the number of young people experiencing mental health issues increases, their treatment options are declining. The Times reports that nationally, the number of residential treatment facilities for people under the age of 18 has declined thirty percent since 2012.
So, the emergency room is the only option for many families. The average stay is 48 hours. It has a name: Emergency department boarding.
The pandemic certainly made this crises worse. Other factors are to blame as well. Social media, less sleep, less exercise and less in person time with friends.
Back to the “60 Minutes” story. I can’t get these kids out of my head. Their struggles are real. The loneliness they felt during the pandemic.
Now that we seem to be coming out on the other side of this, you would hope we could flip the switch and everything would be okay again.
Mental illness, sadly, doesn’t work that way. Once it starts, it takes a long time to reverse. These kids need all the help we can give them.
Now, we find that help is hard to find. The safest place… the emergency room.
We have a crises on our hands. A big one. This is going to be hard to fix. We need to find a way. Quickly.