By Anne Dachel
Over the last 18 months I’ve posted hundreds of disturbing news reports about mental illness and young people on my site LossofBrainTrust.com , but this one from NBC News is especially chilling. I had to give it individual attention. It’s about children in desperate need of emergency psychiatric help, with nowhere to turn. The NBC News people, including anchor Lester Holt, show concern, they call for better insurance coverage, more accommodations, BUT in the end, they willing accept the two terrifying statistics they give us:
“A 40 percent increase in [pediatric] psychiatric visits to emergency rooms,” and the graphic displayed behind Holt in the newsroom, “1 in 5 kids at risk.”
Where did these incredible numbers come from? Over how long a period did ER psych visits increase 40 percent?
Notice that boy in the report has non-verbal autism along with disruptive mood disregulation disorder. Could there be link? How many other behavioral disorders are concomitant with autism?
(Actually disruptive mood disregulation disorder is a relatively new condition, having been added to the DSM in 2013.)
With a 40 percent increase in psychiatric visits to emergency rooms, many families are struggling to find help
… “My brother can’t actually speak. He has that kind of autism.”
“Twelve-year-old Jake has a sweet disposition, but also suffers from disruptive mood disregulation disorder, which can result in terrifying, violent outbursts.
“The episode [was] so frightening that Don and Suzanne made the girls go to their rooms and lock their doors. Finally things got so bad that Don called the police.” …
“They ended up in the emergency room and came face-to-face with a growing crisis: parents struggling to get psychiatric care for their children.”
“How long did Jake stay in the emergency department?”
“Eleven days, in a room that’s not designed for anybody to be there long-term—mattress on the floor.”
“And if we took him home, he comes off the list, so we had to keep him in the ER.”
“The list is the list of kids waiting for an in-patient psychiatric bed. The crisis is nationwide with nearly a forty percent increase in psychiatric visits to emergency rooms.
“NBC News spoke to 55 hospitals in these states. One in Kansas said they turned away 2,000 kids last year alone. All said, during the school year they were completely overwhelmed and didn’t have enough beds.”
“It’s the same trends we’re seeing here.”
“Dr. Claudia Moreno is the head of psychiatric emergencies at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital in Connecticut. She says they’re seeing 1,600 kids a year for psychiatric issues. On a bad night, it can be nine or ten.”
“The youngest I’ve seen is probably a ten-year-old—”
“Who tells you, he or she doesn’t want to live. It would be very scary to just let them walk out the door.”
“It would be, and we wouldn’t just let that happen—”
“And yet, there isn’t always a bed to put them in.”
“Some nights stretchers line the hall with kids waiting to be admitted, which brings us back to Jake, who after a year and a half of repeated ER visits is finally living in a residential facility where he can go to school.” …
“The Connecticut hospital where Jake stayed told us they once had a child who waited an astounding forty day until an in-patient bed was available. And they told us they are seeking solutions, but there are no simple answers.
“One thing nearly everyone seems to agree on: that until insurance pays more consistently and fully for child psychiatric beds, they will remain scare.”
“Your heart has to go out. These parents are going through this anguish, and they try to get help. It’s not there.”
“It’s really a crisis, right in front of us that we have to take a hard look at.”
Of course NBC won’t take a hard look at this crisis. They’ll just continue to report on mental illness and everything else happening to kids with no questions asked. This is childhood in the 21st century. We never ask why. We just expect that our children will get sicker and sicker.
*(Sadly, this story is a reminder of the tragic life of Alex Spourdalakis …before his death.)
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.