KARA advocates for the people, policies and programs

that improve the lives of abused and neglected children.

KARA Signature Video (4 minute)

COVID is Hammering Children’s Mental Health

PreCOVID, From the CDC; “From April to October 2020, hospitals across the U.S. saw a 24% increase in mental health emergency visits for children ages 5 to 11, and a 31% increase for ages 12 to 17 and yes, mental health emergency visits include self-harm and suicide attempts.”

Also from the CDC article, “It is now the job of every parent, educator, and caregiver to help mitigate the long-term consequences of the trauma kids are living through.

In 2019, data showed that an estimated 12 million people seriously thought about suicide.

Because many people don’t openly own up to these thoughts or don’t believe their detachment from being alive falls into the “suicidal” category ― it’s likely the number of people with suicidal ideations could be higher.

These charts show steadily rising trends over the ten year period before COVID. The data pointing to youth planning suicide in the past year is very serious (2019).

Post COVID, “The increased demand for intensive mental health care that has accompanied the pandemic has worsened issues that have long plagued the system. In some hospitals, the number of children unable to immediately get a bed in the psychiatric unit rose. Others reduced the number of beds or closed psychiatric units altogether to reduce the spread of covid-19” (Medscape January 7, 2021) and

PreCOVID, About 1/3 of all state ward children (nationally) were required to take psychotropic medications.  Suicide is now the 2nd leading cause of death among 10 to 24 year olds. 

 Over 1 million children under 6 are prescribed psychiatric drugs in America today.  In 2014, 20,000 one and two year old’s were on Prozac like drugs & *Johnson & Johnson was fined billions of dollars for illegally selling those drugs to pediatricians for use on very young children…

The child psychiatrist working my child protection cases had hundreds of State Ward kids to watch over and no way to provide a consistent presence or adequate safety program to her clients.  Not her fault.  It’s all about how this community values other people’s children.

20 years later, we are stuffing suicidal children overnight in emergency room beds because there are not enough mental health beds and staff to deal with them (and we wonder why kids cut themselves, stab schoolmates, punch teachers and attempt suicide).  Suicide rates in Anoka County almost doubled from 1999 to 2015. It’s ironic that Chicago’s criminal justice system is one of the largest mental health facility in the nation according to Sheriff Thomas Dart.

Today, At Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, the number of children and teens hospitalized after suicide attempts went up from 67 in 2019 to 108 in 2020. And October 2020 saw a 250% increase in these numbers over the previous October, says Hillary Blake, a pediatric psychologist at the hospital.

Psychiatrists and other doctors who work with children say the pandemic has created a perfect storm of stressors for kids, increasing the risk of suicide for many. It has exacerbated an ongoing children’s mental health crisis — suicide rates had already been going up for almost a decade among children and youth.


In prior years, there have been 1000 emergency psychiatric visits monthly in my hometown at Hennepin Healthcare many of them children (a single metro hospital).

Multiple mental health facility closures at MN’s rural hospitals, hospitals turning away mental health patients    , dysfunctional group homes, communities refusing to allow mental health group homes and services in the neighborhood are exacerbating already serious troubleq we have facing this crisis.

The costs of crime & mental health disorders are horrendous – suicides from trauma and abuse are common and predictable.

These MPR short stories clearly articulate the sadness families face dealing with mental health crisis in my state of Minnesota.

It’s time we embraced the problem with the intention of solving it.

Here are some ideas from the CDC article above;

States must create their own roadmaps for success. Fortunately, there are models to serve as guides. For example, New Jersey’s “Road Forward” initiative provides $1.2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds to school districts across the state for students and educators. This includes a $30 million mental health grant that will help school districts facilitate services and invest resources in a way that will best serve the unique needs of their community.

Our federal government has a role to play as well. Representatives Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) and John Katko (R-N.Y.) introduced the Mental Health Services for Students Act, which would create a $200 million grant program to fund mental health services in schools. If signed into law, this would be a major step in the right direction.



By 2017 more than 13% of 12 to 25 year old Americans had symptoms consistent with an episode of major depression in the previous year – a 62% increase in 8 years. COVID is making this much worse today.

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