CINCINNATI — The pandemic has had a major impact on the mental health of kids and teens across the country.
The Centers for Disease Control found that suspected suicide attempts for teens went up this spring.
In May 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts began to increase among children ages 12–17 years-old, especially girls.
From February to March of 2021, suspected suicide attempt visits to the emergency room were 50.6% higher among girls aged 12–17 years than during the same period in 2019. Similar visits for boys increased by 3.7%.
The Children's Home of Cincinnati provides treatment for kids facing social and behavioral challenges. Debbie Gingrich, chief clinical officer for the Children’s Home, said referrals were down at the start of the pandemic as more people stayed home. But by January 2021, those referrals started picking up.
“When kids were pulled from different social environments, the outlets that they had with the peer groups, you know, and at different ages, that's really important for kids' development is how they identify,” Gingrich said. “Building their own identity, but also connecting with their peer groups. You know, missing those interactions and connections was really important.”
March hit a peak, and demand has continued throughout the summer. Many are struggling with anxiety and are hesitant in social situations, while others are struggling with depression or suicidal intent. Debbie Gingrich said she thinks we're just beginning to see how the pandemic has impacted young people and believes we'll get a better idea as things return to normal.
If your child isn't acting like they used to, Gingrich recommends reaching out to a pediatrician, school counselor or the Children's Home to get an assessment.