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What’s Causing California’s Mental Health Crisis Among Adolescents

Less than a decade ago, the emergency department at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego would see maybe one or two young psychiatric patients per day, said Dr. Benjamin Maxwell, the hospital’s interim director of child and adolescent psychiatry.

Now, it’s not unusual for the emergency room to see 10 psychiatric patients in a day, and sometimes even 20, said Maxwell. “What a lot of times is happening now is kids aren’t getting the care they need, until it gets to the point where it is dangerous,” he said.

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ERs throughout California are reporting a sharp increase in adolescents and young adults seeking care for a mental health crisis. In 2018, California ERs treated 84,584 young patients ages 13 to 21 who had a primary diagnosis involving mental health. That is up from 59,705 in 2012, a 42% increase, according to data provided by the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development.

By comparison, the number of ER encounters among that age group for all other diagnoses grew by just 4% over the same period. And the number of ER encounters involving mental health among all other age groups — everyone except adolescents and young adults — rose by about 18%.

The spike in youth mental health visits corresponds with a recent survey that found that members of “Generation Z” — defined in the survey as people born since 1997 — are more likely than other generations to report their mental health as fair or poor. The 2018 polling, done on behalf of the American Psychological Association, also found that members of Generation Z, along with millennials, are more likely to report receiving treatment for mental health issues.

The trend corresponds with another alarming development, as well: a marked increase in suicides among teens and young adults. About 7.5 of every 100,000 young people ages 13 to 21 in California died by suicide in 2017, up from a rate of 4.9 per 100,000 in 2008, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationwide, suicides in that age range rose from 7.2 to 11.3 per 100,000 from 2008 to 2017.

Researchers are studying the causes for the surging reports of mental distress among America’s young people. Many recent theories note that the trend parallels the rise of social media, an ever-present window on peer activities that can exacerbate adolescent insecurities and open new avenues of bullying.

“Even though this generation has been raised with social media, youth are feeling more disconnected, judged, bullied and pressured from their peers,” said Susan Coats, a school psychologist at Baldwin Park Unified School District near Los Angeles.

“Social media: It’s a blessing and it’s a curse,” Coats added. “Social media has brought youth together in a forum where maybe they may have felt isolated before, but it also has undermined interpersonal relationships.”

Members of Generation Z also report significant levels of stress about personal debt, housing instability and hunger, as well as mass shootings and climate change, according to the American Psychological Association survey.

Resources to prevent mental health crisis among youth are often lacking.

“We’re not doing a great job with … catching things before they devolve into broader problems, and we’re not doing a good job with prevention,” said Lishaun Francis, associate director of health collaborations at Children Now, an Oakland-based nonprofit.

Many California school districts don’t have enough school psychologists and don’t devote enough resources to teaching students how to cope with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, said Coats, who chairs the mental health and crisis consultation committee of the California Association of School Psychologists.

In the broader community, medical providers also are struggling to keep up. “Many times there aren’t psychiatric beds available for kids in our community,” Maxwell said.

Most of the adolescents who come into the emergency room at Rady Children’s Hospital during a mental health crisis are considering suicide, have attempted suicide or have harmed themselves, said Maxwell, who is also the hospital’s medical director of inpatient psychiatry.

These patients are triaged and quickly seen by a social worker. Often, a behavioral health assistant is assigned to sit with the patients throughout their stay.

“Suicidal patients — we don’t want them to be alone at all in a busy emergency department,” Maxwell said. “So that’s a major staffing increase.”

Rady Children’s Hospital plans to open a six-bed, 24-hour psychiatric emergency department in the spring. Improving emergency care will help, Maxwell said, but a better solution would be to intervene with young people before they need an ER.

“The ED surge probably represents a failure of the system at large,” Maxwell said. “They’re ending up in the emergency department because they’re not getting the care they need, when they need it.”

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29 comments

  1. I think the main problem is with the massive influx of illegal aliens into Southern California in that time period. I’d be willing to bet that if you compared these rising mental health statistics with the increase of undocumented Mexican and Central Americans they would be alarmingly similar. I think it’s compounded by the overwhelming liberal acceptance of their entry and the rise of sanctuary cities.

  2. Is this not what they call Natural Selection at work?

    • Sure, Mr. Blurb, but Darwin’s signature concept isn’t capitalized. It’s simply “natural selection,” or what Herbert Spencer sometimes preferred to call the “survival of the fittest.”

    • No, it’s not natural selection. Some people who are depressed or suicidal have a great deal to offer the world. But they need help in coping with their psychological distress. If you had a child who was thinking of suicide, would your reaction be: “Well, it’s just natural selection at work?”

  3. Don’t give them drugs . Use the four web pages, that I will post. Upper Cervical Health Centers or NUCCA or The Spesific or Upcspine. Now is way better, than latter. The only exception is after a fall strike to the head or accident. Wait 4 – 5 days. Let the body adapt after the adjustment.. Walking is good. Don’t wash hair, for first 48 hours. Keep appointments, to see if the adjustment is holding.

  4. Lawrence E. Foster

    More proof mental illness can be passed from one generation toi the next. (The proof many of these older generation foks are mentally ill is that they keep voting for the same stupid crooks, and expecting better results.

  5. I know people don’t like to talk about it, but parent can’t close their eyes or ears. Vaccines are loaded with all kinds of poison and DNA from animal and human. The amount given to children has drastically risen since the 1950’s. Maybe these poisons in the vaccine are causing the increase in mental instability in our children. Oh I forgot studies involving Vaccines are outlawed by the federal government. Thank you Ronald Reagan.

  6. Oh for crap sakes…stop lying to the children that the world is going to end in years…Like that creep AOC does! And stop telling them there are 60 different sexes….let the children have there childhood without the perverts grooming them in school!
    You see a drastic drop in metal illness & depression!

    • Exactly. They take all common seance and hope from the children and then wonder why the children feel that life is hopeless. Insanity!!

    • Ron C: My thoughts exactly. Kids are being bombarded with confusing messages and doomsday scenarios. Anyone with half a brain could have predicted all this talk of the world ending due to fake Climate Change passed off as real science, polar bears and other animals dying because of the climate, etc. Now all the attention going to trans this and trans that. It’s hard enough when you’re a ” ‘tween” (period right before puberty sets in when hormones are starting to fly) to figure out what’s what. Peer pressure via social media cannot be helping plus even though there seems to be more ways to “connect” with people, kids seem more isolated. Instead of running out the door after school to play with friends, kids are parked in front of computers and/or TV. They aren’t learning communication or social skills. I see kids in groups of 4-6 or more not speaking to each other but texting each other instead. Texting is hardly a good replacement for face to face communications, bonding, learning how to make friends and developing those all-import social skills. Small wonder teens, in particular, are depressed and becoming disillusioned and suicidal. Just writing about it is depressing. May God have mercy on this generation of vulnerable young people.

    • I agree with you. If not for “the sky is falling” democrats’ screaming all the time and their weird proposals maybe the kids would be a little more calm. Maybe a return to normal with gender identity and not indoctrinating studends about sexual orientation at such an early age might un-confuse some of them. There has to be a connection between increase mental stability and the mass shootings that occur.

  7. Thus we see the end result of these teens and young adults being indoctrinated by a Leftist/Progressive mentality.

  8. Our children are being indoctrinated with the LGBT agenda, and the Leftist perspectives. Our youth are so confused as to what gender they are (and according to LGBT there are more than 2). America needs to bring God back into our lives. Our youth need to start reading the Bible. It will teach them the truth, and also the love God has for us.

  9. With the Leftists doctrine poisoning our children and NOT wholesome Truths, these children are on a “Road to ruin”. They need God himself and HIS Word living in them. They need to be “Born Again”. I’ve seen MANY children being turned around to greatness and Goodness. History is FULL of them. Jesus is Lord. Ask Franklin Graham . . . Team Trump and his allies 2020 – KAGA (Keep America Great Again).

  10. I knew CA folk were crazy

  11. California politics are enough to drive anyone crazy. The younger generation is simply not sophisticated enough to handle the mind-numbing diatribes from liberals — especially those in government or the educational systems.

  12. I would like to see a comparison of violent video games and mental health problems year by year. I fail to believe the hours and hours of watching this does not alter the brains of the viewers. There are many violent influences in society – NFL games, wrestling, boxing, dog fightening, etc., along with the video games. The difference is the amount of time spent on the games.

  13. The left have destroyed religion, they’ve destroyed family, patriotism, respect for law and order. Today’s children have no foundation. They are told that religion is fake, family is irrelevant, being proud to be an American is racist and that the police are the enemy. Without the foundations of God, Family,country,and law any trouble will crumble you. The most important is GOD.

  14. Maybe if our government run school system would stop lying to children about the environment and scaring them into thinking the world is going to end in 10 or 12 years, they would not be so stressed. Also, not misleading them into thinking it’s OK and necessary to go deep into debt to get a degree that they can use for toilet paper while they are working at MacDonald’s after graduation. The only ones winning are the “higher education” of indoctrination. Also, if their parent’s wouldn’t give their kindergarten age kids a smart phone as a baby sitter, they wouldn’t have their brains messed up by the time they graduate. They need to get outside and play and interact in real life with other children. Play some sports. Learn that sometimes they win and sometimes they lose. And, NO, they don’t get a trophy for showing up. They need to learn that they need to DO something to get that trophy. All these liberal social experiments are destroying our youth. It’s long past time for parents to wake up and actually become REAL parents. And, tell their kids “NO” when appropriate.

  15. They need to learn how to suck it up without getting their panties in a wad. That’s what we learned years ago!

  16. How are you going to carry it out when not all Christians read the same Bible?

  17. Its definitely the Leftwing Liberal run State. They have kids so dam confused about everything, what’s to expect were its legal to piss n shit in public, on a sidewalk.
    Then it gets Windy and they CUT your electric off..
    Cant blame them for wanting to escape delusional Adults.
    Thanx PELOSI

  18. Don’t forget all that cloud-seeding/spraying over CallousFunkYa !

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