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Pandemic continues to impact children's mental health. Here are resources in Washington to help

Dr. Chris Ladish of Mary Bridge Children's Hospital talks about the growing mental health needs for children during the pandemic and ways parents can help.

SEATTLE — With most kids back in the classroom, we’re gaining an understanding of the state of mental health for Washington children.

Dr. Chris Ladish is the chief clinical officer for Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. In an interview with KING 5, she shared new insight about the state of mental health for children, youth and teens across Washington state. 

Washington kids in need of mental health services

Across Washington state, hospitals are seeing a big increase in emergency room visits from teens, youth and children experiencing mental health crises. 

In western Washington, Seattle Children’s Hospital and Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital are admitting more teens and children to the hospital due to self-harm and/or suicide attempts.

"Since the pandemic began in March 2020 through February 2021, we have recorded a 67% increase in emergency visits for children, youth and teens in mental distress," said Ladish.

Ladish said 60% of the ER visits for mental health crises are attributed to teens 15 to 18-years-old. Youth between 12 and 14-years-old compose 36% of the mental health crisis visits, and children under age 11 account for 4%.

But Ladish said the mental health crisis in Washington is not new.

Mounting mental health crisis for Washington children 

Mental health concerns for children across the country, and here in western Washington have been mounting for at least a decade, said Ladish.

The federal agency Substance Use and Mental Health Services (SAMSA) began tracking rates of depression in youth in 2011. Back in 2011 the rate of depression in children was 8%. By 2017 it was up to 14% among children.   

Ladish said the isolation caused by the pandemic has only amplified the problem and estimates the rate is now above 20%.

To support the mental health of your child or teen, Ladish recommended the following:

  • Limit social media use
  • Establish a routine and provide structure throughout the day
  • Encourage peer interaction, especially as schools reopen. Hello and goodbye to friends and teachers can make a big difference for your child
  • Talk to your kids about the pressures they are facing. Seek ways to navigate especially stressful events and voice your support of your child

How to get mental health support for your child or teen 

If you think your child is experiencing a mental health crisis, call 911, or contact a mental health crisis line with 24/7 staffing of counselors at:

  • Mental Health Crisis Text Line 741741 
  • Mental Health Crisis Hotline 1-800-562-1240 

And, Ladish said if your child needs mental health care or just some extra support there are a number of resources to explore.

Kids Mental Health Pierce County provides webinars and classes that are free to attend. They can be a great way to connect with others and gain insight about mental health, emotions and a number of common concerns. Additionally, you can access therapy, age and orientation-specific mental health care at the Kids Mental Health Pierce County website.

Seattle Children’s Hospital operates a mental health resource line where you can get help navigating mental health resources and care for your child or teen. The Seattle Children’s Mental Health Resource Line is 833-303-5437.

For those in the north Sound, Compass Health helps children, teens and families with mental health resources, counseling and care.

Mental health care for children and teens without health insurance is often covered by the state and by health care foundations, like the MultiCare Behavioral Health Foundation.