Kids’ ER visits for mental health crises rise at the start of the school term.

Kids' ER visits for mental health crises rise at the start of the school term.

Back to School: The Stressful Reality for Children’s Mental Health


Ah, the start of the school year – a time of new beginnings, reconnecting with friends, and exciting activities. But did you know that it can also be a period of increased mental health concerns for children and teenagers? According to a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), emergency department visits for depression, suicidal thoughts, stress, and substance abuse among children aged 5 to 17 showed a significant increase from fall to spring.

“The academic school year is a time when parents and caregivers, educators, health care providers, and others who regularly interact with children and adolescents can be aware of mental health concerns in children and adolescents, and be ready to respond appropriately,” said a CDC spokesperson.

So what can be done to address this troubling trend? Placing a priority on programs and activities that promote emotional well-being, such as physical activity, nutrition, sleep, social support, and creating inclusive school and community environments, may greatly improve mental health among children and adolescents. These measures could potentially reduce the number of mental health crises that require emergency department visits.

Unfortunately, the exact factors contributing to the increase in mental health issues were not addressed in the research. However, it is possible that social media, peer pressure, and challenges at home may all play a role. Further investigation is needed to fully understand these complex dynamics.

The study, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, utilized data from the National Syndromic Surveillance Program between January 2018 and June 2023. The findings revealed that emergency department visits for depressive disorders, suicidal ideation or self-harm, trauma- and stressor-related disorders, and symptoms of mental and substance use conditions were up to two times higher during the school semesters compared to summers among children and teens aged 10 to 17 years.

For children aged 5 to 9, emergency department visits also increased for depressive disorders, suicidal ideation or self-harm, trauma- and stressor-related disorders, mood disorders, and symptoms of mental and substance use conditions.

To address these concerning trends, the CDC spokesperson emphasized the importance of parents, caregivers, educators, and health care providers being aware of the signs and symptoms of mental distress. By monitoring children and adolescents leading up to and during the academic year, prompt intervention and support can be provided.

The rise in emergency department visits for children and teens with mental health issues has been a growing concern for several years. Dr. Victor Fornari, vice chair of child and adolescent psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital & Cohen’s Children’s Medical Center, notes that these emergency visits reflect the impact of school activities, peer relationships, and family life on mental well-being.

As the number of mental health issues has increased, schools have been forced to take on a more significant role in supporting their students’ mental well-being. Fornari explains, “Schools have now become immersed with the concern about caring for youth with serious psychiatric issues, particularly suicidal thoughts and behaviors.”

It is not surprising that the school year brings about increased stress and pressures for children and teens. As Dr. Fornari suggests, educating schools and families about these seasonal variations and developing collaborative community strategies can strengthen youth and support families during these high-stress periods. It is clear that further research and public health efforts are necessary to address these serious concerns.

In conclusion, the back-to-school season can be a challenging and stressful time for children’s mental health. By prioritizing emotional well-being and creating supportive environments, we can help alleviate these concerns. Through increased awareness, intervention, and collaboration between schools, families, and communities, we can provide the necessary support for our children and teens, ensuring their mental well-being is prioritized throughout the academic year.

Question: The Abbreviated Term ADHD Denotes the Condition Commonly Known As: