A new report shows that the start of the school year can give children and teens a chance to reconnect with friends and enjoy school sports and activities, but it can also trigger stressors that send many people to emergency rooms for mental health problems.
Among children ages 5 to 17, emergency department visits for depression, suicidal thoughts, stress and substance abuse increased significantly in the fall and remained high through the spring, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The academic school year is a time when parents and caregivers, educators, health care providers, and others who regularly interact with children and adolescents can be aware of child and adolescent mental health issues and be prepared to respond appropriately,” said a CDC spokesperson. he said.
“Prioritizing programs and activities that protect emotional well-being, such as physical activity, nutrition, sleep, social, community or religious support, and inclusive school and community environments, can improve child and adolescent mental health and reduce mental ill health. crises that require a trip to the emergency room,” the spokeswoman added.
Factors that contribute to an increase in mental health problems, such as social media, peer pressure or home life, were not addressed in the research, the spokesman noted.
For a study published Sept. 22 in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, researchers used data from the National Syndrome Surveillance Program for 25 different conditions from January 2018 to June 2023.
“Each year, during 2018 to 2023, the number and proportion of weekly emergency room visits [for] depressive disorders, suicidal ideation or self-harm, trauma and stress-related disorders, lifestyle or lifestyle factors, mood disorders, drug poisoning, and symptoms of mental and substance use conditions were up to twice as high during school semesters. until the summer among children and adolescents aged 10 to 17,” the spokeswoman noted.
Among children aged 5 to 9 years, the number and proportion of emergency room visits increased for depressive disorders, suicidal ideation or self-harm, trauma and stress-related disorders, mood disorders, and symptoms of mental and substance use conditions. .
“Parents and caregivers, educators, health care providers and others who regularly interact with children and adolescents can learn about the signs and symptoms of mental distress and monitor children and adolescents for possible increases in mental distress in the weeks leading up to and during the academic year. year,” said a spokeswoman for the CDC.
The increase in emergency room visits among children and adolescents has been on the rise for several years, said Dr. Victor Fornari, vice chair of child and adolescent psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital & Cohen’s Children’s Medical Center, in Glen Oaks, NY.
“Emergency room visits by children and adolescents have been increasing over the past several decades, with dramatic increases over the past decade,” Fornari said. Seasonal variations in these psychiatric emergencies reflect different activities related to school, peers and family life, he added.
As these problems have mounted, schools have been forced to play an ever-expanding role in the mental well-being of their students, Fornari noted.
“Schools are now immersed in the concern of caring for young people with serious psychiatric problems, particularly suicidal thoughts and behaviour,” he explained.
It is not surprising that these problems increase during the school year as stress increases and children have to cope with school and social pressures.
“The reported seasonal fluctuations highlight the need to educate schools and families about this and work to develop community strategies to empower youth and support families during these high-stress times,” Fornari said. “Further research and public health efforts are needed to alleviate these serious concerns.”
For more information on children’s mental health, head to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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