Lack of Access to Mental Health Care Is a Crisis for Patients of all Ages

Content courtesy of UPMC.

The pandemic has escalated the need for increased access to mental health care among patients of all ages. And mental health nurses are among the providers who are feeling the pressure.

Crisis Declared

In 2020 U.S. hospitals experienced a 24% increase in emergency department (ED) visits among children ages five to 11 years for mental health reasons compared to 2019. Mental health visits to U.S. EDs rose 31% from year to year among teens, according to the Children’s Hospital Association. The Children’s Hospital Association also notes that hospital admissions and ED visits for suicide attempts doubled from 2008 to 2015.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the trend, said Laura J. Wood, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, Executive Vice President for Patient Care Operations, System CNO, and Sporing Carpenter Chair for Nursing at Boston Children’s Hospital.

“For children and adolescents, what began as a pandemic focused on an infectious disease evolved into a mental health crisis of unprecedented proportion,” Wood said.

In October 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association declared a national emergency in children’s mental health, citing the serious toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on top of existing challenges such as the pre-COVID-19 rise in suicides.

Mental health is part of holistic health, said Lindsey Casey, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, Senior Vice President and CNO at Children’s Hospital New Orleans.

Lindsey Casey, RN

“While the pandemic has largely focused on the physical health of our community, we cannot lose sight of the mental health consequences significantly impacting the pediatric population,” Casey said. “The statistics are staggering. According to the CDC, comparing 2020 to 2019, suspected suicide attempts were up 51% for girls ages 12 to 17.”

Adults are suffering, too. One in three reported symptoms of an anxiety disorder in 2020, compared with one in 12 in 2019, according to the American Hospital Association’s Nov. 15, 2021, letter responding to the Senate Finance Committee’s request for information on behavioral health care in the U.S.

The upswing in mental health issues should come as no surprise given the pandemic’s associated physical isolation, ongoing uncertainty, fear, and grief.

Struggling To Provide Access to Mental Health Care

The pandemic changed traditional models of care for mental health care.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, community-based support systems such as schools, neighborhood recreational centers, after school programs, and school-based resources such as school nurses rapidly vanished with the onset of mandated stay-at-home declarations,” Wood said. “As a result, families with children and adolescents in crisis turned to acute care healthcare settings, including children’s hospitals, in unprecedented volumes. The numbers of children and adolescents requiring inpatient care quickly filled child and adolescent mental health facilities and eclipsed the capacity of children’s hospitals across the entire country.”

Connie Vogel, RN

Inpatient psychiatric settings have been extremely affected by COVID-19 and the need to …read more

Read full article here: