Pediatric ER visits related to mental health increase at Valley Children's Hospital

MADERA, Calif. (KFSN) -- A recent study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows emergency room visits by children showing mental health conditions increased after 2019.

According to Valley Children's Healthcare officials, the hospital is seeing the same trend.

"There are different theories of why this pandemic led to this impact or this effect that we're seeing in the mental health conditions," said Dr. Nael Mhaissen, medical director for infectious diseases. "But one of them is the stress related to this pandemic, particularly in terms of the children not being able to connect with their peers not being out and about like they used to be."

Valley Children's has seen more children up to 17 years old visit the emergency room in the past two years with mental health conditions. This includes depression, anxiety, eating and tic disorders.

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The health facility also saw an increase in calls for consultations regarding mental health.

"These things, you do not want to wait for them to get severe or very bad before you address it," Dr. Mhaissen said. "You want to start that conversation. You want to seek health and seek care for your child as soon as possible."

The CDC study also shows teen girls, aged 12 to 17, accounted for most of the ER visits.

"Teenage girls, for some reason, seem to be more vulnerable to mental health conditions and others," said Dr. Mhaissen.

Hospital officials hope to see a downward trend now that we're getting back to a new normal, but stress continued awareness and vigilance in noticing any signs of emotional distress in children.

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