Suicide attempts for teen girls up 50% as pandemic wages war on kids' mental health

COVID-19 led to dramatic increases in cases, particularly among girls and younger kids
A mother and daughter.
Photo credit fizkes/Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of kids and teenagers, something we may have known intuitively.

But now nearly two years into it, there are studies that bear that out and quantify just how bad it is.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the number of kids going to the emergency room for suspected attempted suicide has gone up significantly, especially for teenage girls, who saw a 50% increase in early 2021 compared to 2019.

When Children's Hospital of Philadelphia looked at data from more than 300,000 of its patients, it found that positive screenings for depression and suicide risk both increased by about 1%. That's an increase of 3,000 kids.

"At the start of the pandemic, we started to see them coming into the emergency department much sicker," said Dr. Tami Benton, psychiatrist in chief at CHOP and Chair of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

"With more depression, more anxiety, lots of individuals with eating disorders were doing worse, more suicidal ideation, particularly among girls was a significant change. And then we started to see younger children coming into the emergency department...with fairly significant distress, some acting out behaviors, some more anxiety and depression as well. So it took the pandemic and all of our public health measures to maintain safety significantly impacted children, adolescents, and their families."

Dr. Benton talked one-on-on with KYW Newsradio's Carol McKenzie to go much more in-depth into the growing mental health crisis among children. Listen here.

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Pandemic mental health crisis in kids and teens: Warning signs for parents
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For more mental health resources:
- National Institute of Mental Health: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/
- The Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255
- You can text HOME to the crisis text line: 741741
- The Trevor Project Hotline: 866-488-7386
- You can find more information at chop.edu and mentalhealth.gov