North Dakota resources strained by uptick in mental health concerns

Local News

More and more kids are going to the emergency room for mental health crises across the country.

“The age group of 5-11 it has increased at least 25 percent compared to 2019, and for the age group of 12-17, we have seen at least 30 percent increase,” CHI St. Alexius Pediatric Hospitalist Dr. Parveen Wahab said.

Dr. Wahab says the pandemic has contributed to the problem.

“Restriction in mobility, social isolation, daily routines have changed quite a bit, online schooling, they are not able to interact with their friends, parental stress,” Wahab said.

Those at CHI St. Alexius say their children’s mental health unit is at capacity and they are in serious need of mental health resources.

“I was told that the unit is full, which means kids coming in through the doors of the ED, or a direct admit, they will have to be turned away,” Wahab said.

While telehealth options have helped, Dr. Wahab says it’s not enough.

“At this point, we have to use whatever we can. I hope that there is more funding in that arena because our community needs it for sure,” Wahab said.

Those at the North Dakota Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health also say the resources haven’t caught up with the need.

That’s despite a 2020 nationwide survey finding a 200 percent increase in the number of people getting a mental health screening.

North Dakota Federation of Families For Children’s Mental Health Executive Director Carlotta McCleary says her organization is in need of more staff and other resources to meet the need.

“The state is doing a lot to put infrastructure in place but a lot has not been able to be implemented yet,” McCleary said.

Those at another mental health resource for families — the Village Family Service Center — are seeing a similar trend, too.

“We see a lot more anxiety with children, and definitely we’ve worked with kids that have a hard time going back to in person learning,” Outpatient Counselor Mallary Schaefer said.

Schaefer says parents can help by talking with their kids and modeling good behavior.

“There’s a lot of anxiety over getting sick. A lot of how that’s impacted is how parents handle it. Kids really feed off their parents and what they’re talking about,” Schaefer said.

Schaefer also noted that part of the increase in visits could be because the stigma surrounding mental health is slowly starting to improve.

Click on the following links for more information on the resources available at The Village Family Service Center and North Dakota Federation of Families For Children’s Mental Health.

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