The pandemic affects the mental health of minors in a worrying way, especially adolescents, which is verified by increasing pediatric emergencies by 50% for psychiatric problems and also by multiplying by two those of anorexia. In addition, experts predict a rebound in suicidal behavior. Since last fall, pediatricians have seen how the mental health of children and adolescents has worsened, something that was seen in pediatric emergencies with patients with emotional distress and disorders that manifested with different symptoms.
The pandemic chronifies the precariousness of psychological care: “Mental health has always been the last of the class”
These are data about which the Spanish Association of Pediatrics (AEP) has alerted this Wednesday during the presentation of its II Digital Congress, which is held from June 3 to 5 and which brings together more than 3,500 pediatricians who, among other things, address the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of minors.
The president of the Society of Child Psychiatry, Azucena Díez, explained that the pathologies that have increased the most are anxiety and obsessive disorders, of which around 70% progress well, but there are other minor ones that develop depressive episodes. The expert, referring to a study by the Sant Joan de Deu Hospital (Barcelona), has indicated that pediatric emergencies for psychiatric problems have increased by 50% and has ensured that they have had up to four times more patients admitted to psychiatric units infantile than before the pandemic.
Increase in eating disorders in adolescents
Díez has pointed out that it was not expected to see “a real avalanche”, up to twice as many cases, of eating disorder, especially restrictive and, fundamentally, in girls. They are adolescents who decide to stop eating due to boredom, lack of stimulation or because of a challenge with a friend and are “much more serious” anorexia according to the expert, since if before the pandemic with these behaviors the minors lost around between 10 and 15% of its weight, now it is estimated between 30 and 35%. They are “so severe” disorders that they put the lives of adolescent girls who suffer from it at risk.
Experts have also noted an increase in non-suicidal self-harm such as cuts and scratches, among others, which “are not always related to a specific pathology” and which arise as a way of expressing discomfort. Queries have also increased dramatically for these reasons. Experts predict a “rebound in suicidal behavior” and a greater representation of suicide as a cause of death in young people.
Suicide is the second or third cause of death among those under 21 years of age and the third in adolescence, a situation that “will probably get worse,” says the president of the Society for Child Psychiatry. Therefore, it is requested to approve and implement the suicide law with specific sections for this population.
Faced with this reality, the AEP’s proposals to reduce the psychological impact of the pandemic on children and adolescents involve improving psychiatry and mental health services, guaranteeing that all students return to the course they come in person. one hundred percent, encourage extracurricular activities and physical exercise. In addition, recognition of the specialty of child and adolescent psychiatry is requested, since Spain is the only country in the EU that does not have it.
For the president of the AEP, María José Mellado, prevention is essential, allocating funds and solving the “very important” deficit of pediatricians in the National Health System. “We are warning that this can be prevented, which is going to come upon us,” Mellado stressed, since today’s adolescents will be the future generation. For this reason, the president of the AEP, who has also stressed that the pandemic has increased domestic violence, has insisted on the work that institutions must do to address and prevent the problem of mental health in minors.