Doctors seeing increase in youth seeking mental health care

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico doctors are seeing more children and teens getting mental health care. Presbyterian is seeing a 30% increase in children and teenagers arriving in its emergency rooms for mental health treatment versus this time last year. Meanwhile, the University of New Mexico Hospital says they’re seeing more young people seeking therapy for psychiatric treatment.

“In general, we’re seeing more people who are struggling with some depth of depression. Or, perhaps maybe demoralization may be the better way to describe it, where their motivation, energy are diminished and their mood feels down,” said Dr. Kristina Sowar, UNMH child psychiatrist.

Dr. Sowar with UNMH says they’re also treating young people for anxiety and stress. UNMH doesn’t have an exact number but say children or teen seeking outpatient care like therapy or psychiatric treatment is increasing significantly. Dr. Sowar says while their in-patient mental health unit for young people who are at risk of hurting themselves or others is busy, but is consistent with trends from years past.

However, in addition to that 30% increase in their ER, Presbyterian says they’re seeing a 30 to 40% increase in hospitalizations for children and teenagers for mental health issues compared to this time last year. While specifics about all patients are confidential, Dr. Sowar says kids who were more involved in school whether it be sports or clubs, are impacted more by the pandemic.

“It’s not the most common that it gets to the point of needing in-patient but certainly these are adolescents who are struggling and are requiring and hopefully benefiting from mental health care whether it’s therapy or further psychiatric care too,” Dr. Sowar said.

Monday, the NMAA announcing a mental health awareness initiative. Every day this week they’ll be shared videos and messages from students, coaches, and health professionals and for the rest of the semester, they’ll be doing wellness Wednesdays promoting mental health phone resources on their social media platforms.

Dr. Sowar also says while there can still be a stigma about getting mental health treatment she encourages parents to be open to the idea if they see their child struggling. Many therapists and psychiatrists now offer telehealthcare or virtual therapy.

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