CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Facing a rising tide of mental illness among children, the top pediatricians in the U.S. are calling the mental health of children and teens a major priority, and saying the problem is a national emergency.
Between February and March of 2021, emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts were up 51% compared to the same period in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Clinical psychologist Dr. John Duffy says that the emergency is taking place “in the shadows.” Kids seal themselves off with electronic devices and other means that allow them to hide what’s truly going on. He said the crisis has been building for more than a decade.
The surge in mental disorders among parents can create a “sick house” phenomenon in which the disorders of the children and the parents feed off each other and worsen the conditions of both while appearing like a normal household to anyone on the outside looking in. The pandemic exacerbated this problem, with parents working remotely and kids doing virtual schooling, so everyone was locked in the house together, a potential recipe for disaster.
Duffy said schools desperately need to provide more social/emotional learning (SEL) classes. He also advocates for more social workers in schools, especially in underserved populations. Schools need psychologists in-house, he said, experienced in recognizing the signs of kids at risk.
He advised parents to check in with their kids, going beyond the casual, “How are you doing?” to real conversations and active listening.
Finally, and expect some resistance on this, Duffy suggests no phones in the sleeping area, and a period of “slow down” time before bed where electronics are off-limits. Social media can be a huge contributor to everything from body image issues to paranoia among teens, and cutting down on exposure, especially before bed, is a good idea.
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