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Hospitals seeing increase in mental health ER visits among youth

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Posted at 5:51 PM, Aug 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-23 20:51:48-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Rady Children's Hospital says it's seen a 30% increase in emergency room visits for children experiencing mental health crises.

​"I know that they're coming to the emergency room as a last resort," said ​Dr. Willough Jenkins, a Pediatric Psychiatrist at Rady Children's Hospital.​

Healthcare centers are requesting more resources and want families to have better access to care.

​"It really indicates that there's been a failure of the system before us — that children have not received appropriate intervention or help," Dr. Jenkins said.

Mental health experts are not only seeing more children in crisis, but their issues are more severe and complex.

They list a variety of reasons behind the disturbing trend, including social media and cyberbullying.

​"Then the pandemic happened, and of course, it was the social isolation, the academic disruption, again significant stressors on the families, lost of parents and guardians," Dr. Jenkins said.

​"This was not created by the pandemic. This was made worse by the pandemic," said Dr. Moisés Barón.

Dr. Barón is the President and CEO of the San Diego Center for Children, a non-profit that provides youth mental health and educational services.

He points to a severe shortage in the behavioral health workforce as part of the problem.

He also said early intervention and having a continuum of care accessible to families are key to preventing and improving the mental health crisis.

"We have data that shows that when we're able to invest in the services that are lacking and missing in our community, we might be able to really create options for some of the youth with more severe problems to get the help they need, " Dr. Barón said.

Below, you'll find links for various local mental health resources: