The following is excerpted from an online article posted by MedicalXpress.
The past decade has seen a worrisome increase in mental health crises among adolescents. A new study led by Patricia Ibeziako, MD, associate chief of clinical services in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Services at Boston Children’s Hospital, shows that the situation worsened with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings appear in Hospital Pediatrics, a publication of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Ibeziako and colleagues looked back at the Boston Children’s own records over a two-year study period—the first pandemic year (March 2020 to February 2021) and the year just prior. During this time, nearly 3,800 children aged 4 to 18 were admitted to the emergency department (ED) or inpatient units for mental-health-related reasons. About 80% were adolescents aged 12 to 18.
In the year before the pandemic, 50% of admitted patients had suicidal ideation or had made suicide attempts. That jumped to 60% during the first pandemic year. The number of patients making actual suicide attempts rose from 236 to 369—going from 12% to 21% of all mental health admissions.
“The majority of suicide attempts were overdoses,” says Ibeziako. “We were seeing patients without known mental health issues presenting for the first time with suicide attempts, as well as patients with pre-existing mental health diagnoses.”
Aside from suicidality, mental health admissions at Boston Children’s increased year over year for depressive disorders (from 63 to 70% of admissions), anxiety disorders (from 46 to 51%), eating disorders (from 7 to 14%), substance-related disorders (7 to 9%), and obsessive-compulsive related disorders (4 to 6%). Admissions rose especially for girls, whose share increased from 56 to 66%.