Responding to the children's mental health crisis
The isolation, uncertainty and grief children have faced during the pandemic has drastically increased rates of childhood mental health concerns and suicide attempts across the country. The situation is so serious, the American Academy of Pediatrics, along with other leading professional organizations, recently declared a national emergency in children’s mental health.
In our adolescent inpatient unit, we witness this crisis every day. Our adolescent unit is at capacity with children admitted who have serious challenges. Unfortunately, there are few other resources in our community for these children.
Unity’s acute inpatient psychiatric unit has 22 patient rooms for youth ages nine to 17 years old. We admit around 450 adolescent patients per year who are dealing with a wide array of intense challenges. For every 100 adolescents admitted to Unity, approximately 3 out of 4 are here because of a recent suicide attempt or suicidal ideation, while 1 in 5 are here for treatment of their psychotic, manic or catatonic symptoms.
Some staggering statistics of the patients we care for:
- 90% have attempted suicide at some point
- 62% have self-harmed
- 84% report being bullied
- Over 50% are aware that a lack of money is causing stress for their household
- Less than 30% attend their neighborhood school
According to an informal Oregon Health Authority survey in September of this year, Unity was the only facility in Oregon with the staff and resources to operate adolescent mental healthcare at full capacity. Others are operating below capacity, largely due to staffing shortages, and some have even had to close.
With fewer available residential or outpatient resources, patients must stay at Unity longer than they might have otherwise until appropriate ongoing care can be secured. This limits access for others who need care at Unity, in turn putting more strain on the hospitals and emergency departments where those children are waiting for care.
Here at Unity, we are working on improving efficiency at every step of a child’s hospitalization without sacrificing quality. We are continuously exploring the best evidence-based treatment options to incorporate in our treatment plans for all the children and families we serve. Donations to Unity can help support care for our adolescent patients and education for staff to continue providing the best treatment possible.