Children's Hospital Colorado declares state of emergency for youth mental health amid pandemic

Hospital Superheros
Posted at 4:03 PM, May 26, 2021

DENVER — Colorado health leaders have declared a state of emergency in youth mental health amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Children’s Hospital Colorado said it is seeing an increase kids reporting anxiety, depression and feelings of isolation and social disconnectedness due, in part, to the isolation and stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hospital has seen a 90% increase in demand for behavioral health treatment in the past two years, according to a Children’s Hospital Colorado news release.

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Óscar Contreras
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Jena Hausmann, CEO of Children’s Hospital Colorado, shared a grim statistic during a roundtable discussion Tuesday to address pediatric mental health issues: Suicide is the leading cause of death in Colorado for kids and young adults starting at age 10.

She said the hospital's emergency transport team is seeing 3-4 suicide attempts per week.

"Right now, Colorado’s children uniquely need our help," Hausmann said in the release. "It has been devastating to see suicide become the leading cause of death for Colorado’s children. For over a decade, Children’s Colorado has intentionally and thoughtfully been expanding our pediatric mental health prevention services, outpatient services and inpatient services, but it is not enough. Now we are seeing our pediatric emergency departments and our inpatient units overrun with kids attempting suicide and suffering from other forms of major mental health illness."

Hospital officials said they have seen a trend of low-level anxiety and depression in kids in the past 15 months.

"I've been in practice for over 20 years in pediatrics and I’ve never seen anything like the demand for mental health services we’ve seen at Children’s Colorado in the past 15 months," said David Brumbaugh in the release, chief medical officer for Children’s Colorado. "There have been many weeks in 2021 that the number one reason for presenting to our emergency department is a suicide attempt. Our kids have run out of resilience – their tanks are empty."

Child psychologists are concerned that the pediatric mental health crisis won’t simply go away in the next year as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

"Despite things getting better in terms of COVID-19, kids have dealt with chronic stress for the past year that has interrupted their development," said Dr. Jena Glover in the release. "Now kids are asked to be starting back into life again, they don't have the resources to do that, they're burnt out and they feel so behind they don't know how to catch up."

Hospital officials are urging more funding to combat mental health issues in children. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act will provide $3.9 billion to Colorado, and they hope a fair amount is designated for pediatric mental health.

Denver7 went in-depth on mental health in Colorado. Watch the video below:

Denver7 In-Depth: Mental Health in Colorado