By Ernie Mundell HealthDay Reporter
The mental health of America’s teens is improving. In the fall of 2022 the number of kids aged 12-17 who visited emergency rooms in the United States for psychiatric issues was down compared to one year earlier.
The number of adolescent ED visits per week for mental health issues fell by 11% in the last fall compared to the higher levels of the fall of 2021 when the pandemic still kept many children out of school or in lockdown.
Data compiled by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows similar declines year-on-year for adolescent ED visitations linked to thoughts of suicidal behavior (down 12%) and for drug overdoses in adolescents (down 10%).
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Why has mental health among teens improved?
CDC researcher Kayla Anderson led a team that wrote: 'Many teenagers have returned to school and community environments similar to those of prepandemics, which may have improved social engagement and reduced isolation, and supported mental health and behavioral health.'
Researchers also believe 'familial stresses' may have also ebbed when kids were released from lockdowns or remote schooling.
However, the report was not all positive.
The researchers found that boys seem to benefit more than girls. ED visits for mental illnesses'remain the same or higher than the already alarmingly high baselines among females until 2022', they reported.
Another grim statistic was the rise in opioid-related overdoses between 2021-2022, particularly among boys.
The report shows that between the falls of 2021-2022, ED visits resulting from such crises increased by 41% for male adolescents, and by 10% for female adolescents.
Anderson's team reported that ED visits involving drug overdoses of any kind were 10% higher in fall 2022 than in 2019.
They stressed that teen opioid overdoses are still small compared to adults.
The CDC wrote that 'any adolescent drug overdose is alarming', especially since the increased availability of lethal and highly potent counterfeit pills containing illicitly produced fentanyl by adolescents on social media has raised awareness about an increase in overdose risks among younger populations.
They added that more needs to be accomplished to help troubled teenagers avoid mental health crises, and in particular drug overdoses. Two recent initiatives may be already paying off. The launch of 988 suicide crisis number in 2022, and better access to telehealth services mental health'might have increased families' ability identify support before a crises or get care outside EDs' Anderson's group said.