According to the most recent National Survey of Children’s Health, more than 8 million children ages 3-17 were diagnosed with a mental or behavioral health condition before the pandemic hit. And a survey from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 1 in 3 high school students in 2019 said they felt “persistently sad and hopeless” — a 40% increase from 2009.
COVID-19 is just adding to the problem, Kaiser wrote: “A review of 80 studies found forced isolation and loneliness among children correlated with an increased risk of depression.”
“We’re all social beings, but they’re at the point in their development where their peers are their reality,” Terrie Andrews, a psychologist and administrator of behavioral health at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Florida, said about teenagers. “Their peers are their grounding mechanism.”
Andrews said up to 25 children have been held on surgical floors at Wolfson Children’s while waiting for a spot in the inpatient psychiatric unit. Their wait could last as long as five days, she told Kaiser.
Many facilities see a decline in patients during the summer when kids get to hang out more with friends.
“We never saw that during the pandemic,” said Andrews. “We stayed completely busy the entire time.”
And when therapists can finally treat a child, coronavirus safeguards can get in the way. Wearing a mask hinders the ability to read a kid’s expressions, and online meetings make it difficult to build a personal relationship and trust.