Mental health

Mental Health Crisis Grows as COVID-19 Pandemic Rages on

A recent Monmouth University poll found 60% of Americans are "worn out" by the pandemic and 45% say they feel angry about the impact on daily life

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As we focus on testing, treatment and vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a growing mental health crisis.

"Not knowing exactly what's going to happen can really be difficult for a lot of people to tolerate and live with each and every day," explained Dr. Christine Crawford, a psychiatrist at Boston Medical Center.

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A recent Monmouth University poll found 60% of Americans are "worn out" by the pandemic and 45% say they feel angry about the impact on daily life. 

Crawford said that is not surprising.

"Routine gives us a sense of control over our daily lives and it makes us feel like we can predict what's going to happen within a given day."

Routine has either disappeared or been severely altered for many.

Ching Lin is a student in Boston who explained how it feels.

"We have to do test every week and we have to have all the vaccine. Despite that we still have people get infected with COVID."

"I think that we're feeling a lot of stress from having to be online and then thinking everything would be better when we went back in person and it not being the same," added another Boston student who gave their name as Emeline.

More children with COVID are ending up in the hospital in Massachusetts than ever on record, but experts caution that context means the rise shouldn't overly alarm parents.

For many children the situation is life-threatening. The CDC reports emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts by 12- to 17-year-old girls rose 51% from early 2019 to early 2021. 

Psychiatrist Dr. Chase Samsel of Boston Children's Hospital said that’s troubling.

"Throughout this pandemic the amount of stress and distress that youth and families have been experiencing has been tremendous."

In December the U.S. Surgeon General issued a public health advisory about the mental health crisis among kids and teenagers.

"It would be a tragedy if we beat back one public health crisis only to allow another to grow in its place. That’s why I am issuing this Surgeon General’s Advisory. Mental health challenges in children, adolescents, and young adults are real, and they are widespread," the report reads.

In Massachusetts, a recent study found 71-percent of older teens reported significantly increased anxiety and/or depression during the past year. And because of a severe shortage of staffing and beds in psychiatric units, the latest figures show 136 children are left waiting in emergency departments. With mental health struggles among children at a crisis point, several national pediatric groups are declaring a state of emergency. NBC10 Investigative Reporter Kristy Lee outlines what they’re calling for and what’s being done at the state and local level to help children and their parents.

Samsel said the disruption of schools is a big factor.

"To not have some predictability, to not have connection, to not be able to have outlets that are important to their creativity and consistency in mentoring and monitoring is certainly a big deal for youth these days."

Experts say it's important to keep an eye on each other and say something if someone seems to be struggling. They point out that there is no shame in seeking professional help.

SUICIDE PREVENTION HELP: Here is information on suicide prevention from the National Institute of Mental Health. If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting ‘Home’ to 741741.

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