Mental health crises among children and adolescents requiring emergency department care skyrocketed during the pandemic and have stayed elevated despite a return to normalcy, according to a study by Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian investigators.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics on Oct. 20, compared rates of pediatric mental health visits in the emergency departments of five New York City medical centers from a pre-pandemic period through five pandemic waves. Each wave saw elevated rates of youth mental health-related visits compared to before the pandemic. They found, however, no relationship between pediatric mental health visits and COVID-19 prevalence or how strict mitigation measures were.
Youth mental health was already in a crisis, but the pandemic may have exacerbated or uncovered underlying issues. “The COVID-19 pandemic made the problems more pronounced,” noted first author Dr. Deborah Levine, an associate professor of clinical emergency medicine and associate professor of clinical pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medicine and a pediatric emergency medicine physician at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
The data analyzed for the study came from a New York-based network called the INSIGHT Clinical Research Network, which is part of the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network (PCORnet).