More children struggling with mental health as result of pandemic

SPOKANE, Wash. — There’s finally a clear path out of this pandemic as more and more people get vaccinated. However, medical experts say the struggles associated with it are far from over.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 44 million Americans suffer from a mental health condition.

It’s an alarming statistic. What’s even more alarming is just how young some of these people are.

“We’ve seen kids talk to their parents as young as 8 and say things like, ‘I don’t feel loved. I don’t want to be here anymore. I don’t want to be anywhere anymore.’,” said Samantha Clark, Executive Director of Strategy for the MultiCare Behavioral Health Network.

It’s a reality that’s hard to process.

“I don’t think we fully anticipated how big of an impact that was going to be and how significant their needs were going to be in just the course of a year,” said Clark.

Clark has seen the effects firsthand.

“If you look at where we are today compared to pre-COVID, our referrals have tripled,” she said.

Kids are not alone. A recent survey released by Mental Health America shows people of all ages are struggling. Too many find an answer in suicide.

“If you happen to be between the ages of 10-34, it is the second most common cause of death,” said Dr. Francisco Velázquez with the Spokane Regional Health District.

But when it comes to kids, the numbers are especially high.

“We do know that almost 10% of our youth is suffering from some level of depression,” said Velázquez.

“What’s new is that we’re seeing more referrals for suicidal ideation in kids and teenagers,” said Clark.

Suicidal ideation lands patients in the ER, no matter how young.

“Out of our 18 beds at the Deaconess Emergency Department, there’s usually no fewer than 8 and often as many as 15 individuals who have primarily psychiatric needs,” Clark said.

While the solution isn’t always easy, Clark believes the first step is crystal clear.

“All across Washington state, we’re seeing that we need more inpatient psychiatric facilities,” she said.