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Children and teens feeling stress of pandemic, but keeping them in school can help

Doctors at the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters say they're seeing an "increase" in emergency room visits for mental health concerns in youth.

NORFOLK, Va. — Author's note: The video above is on file from July 1, 2021. 

Doctors at the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters say more children are winding up in the hospital with mental health concerns.

As COVID-19 cases rise, infectious disease specialist Dr. Laura Sass warns we’re at the start of another surge that could affect more than just our physical health.

“Yes, this has taken a huge toll on the mental health of our children and teenagers," she said. “The volume of children in the emergency department and admitted to our hospital with mental health concerns, that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, has continued to increase – just like it has increased throughout the United States.”

Sass said CHKD continues to process mental health concerns in the emergency department and her team has more plans in the works: the hospital is also planning a new psychiatric unit in the hospital.

“We are proud to know that we are going to be – I think the term is - “Lighting The Way” for mental health services, and we will be offering that,” she said.

Sass added that keeping children in school can go a long way when it comes to improving mental health.

“The pandemic has taken a toll on everyone. I think there is a lot of importance of school attendance and being with your peers, which was very difficult in 2020,” she said. "Basically a lot of people lost a school year." 

Sass said that proper safety mitigations like vaccinations, mask wearing and social distancing made it possible to open schools.  

“Virtual school is good for some, it wasn’t good for everyone – so they worked very hard to put in safety mitigation strategies in each school system to get kids back into school to give them some period of normalcy,” she said.

Sass said all of us – adults and children – have to adjust to this “new normal.”

CHKD is planning to open its new children’s pavilion with a 60 bed in-patient psychiatric unit later this year.

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