Pediatric groups report substantial increase in child mental health issues

Licensed professional counselor at Cornerstone Counseling in Huntsville discusses this concern.
Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 9:59 AM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - On Oct. 19, three pediatric health organizations declared a national emergency in children’s mental health due to the serious psychological effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would say we’ve really never experienced anything like this before, or at least I haven’t in my career because up to this point, I don’t think we’ve ever had anything that’s happened on such a global scale, that’s not just felt by a single community, but felt universally,” said Lacey Davis, a licensed professional counselor at Cornerstone Counseling in Huntsville.

The declaration was put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Association. The organizations believe that the challenges facing children are so severe that policymakers must take action through increased federal funding for mental health services.

At Cornerstone Counseling in Huntsville, Davis said she’s seen an increased number of patients under the age of 18 dealing with depression, anxiety, grief and more.

“I would say that most of the children coming in have been impacted by the pandemic in one way shape or form,” Davis said. “That could be because their family is experiencing some kind of economic hardship, oftentimes it’s because kids have been living in some state of social isolation for such a long time.”

Davis said we also need to be aware of the increase in suicidal ideation among adolescents. Although that trend is alarming, she doesn’t want parents to be afraid to ask their kids if they suspect something is wrong. She encourages parents to ask their kids tough questions, which will open up the door for communication and show their children that they have nothing to be ashamed of.

“I think the worst thing that we can do for our kids is take a wait-and-see approach when it comes to their mental health,” Davis said. “So really being vigilant about their health needs. If we spoke about mental health in the same way that we talked about their medical health, I don’t think we would hesitate to get kids the help that they need.”

At the end of the day, Davis said she admires how proactive young people are being about their mental health. Davis said she’s also seen an uptick in adults seeking evaluation and counseling. In years past, that would not have been the case.

“Even though mental health issues are on the rise, I think that people are also seeking help more than they ever have before,” Davis said. “So for us in this community, that’s an exciting change. Just a few generations ago, speaking with a therapist was something that was secretive and shameful, and now it’s becoming more common and encouraged...”

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