Mental Health-Related Emergency Room Visits For Children On The Rise Amid Pandemic

by Kristine Cannon
FS Productions/Getty

According to the CDC, COVID-19 stress is taking a toll on children’s mental health

Since the onset of the pandemic, COVID-19 has not only had a physical impact on Americans — since March, the virus has infected more than 10.6 million people in the U.S., with symptoms ranging from fever or chills and cough to shortness of breath, body aches, and more — but COVID-19 also had a mental impact on people of all ages, including children. And we have a handful of studies to prove the latter. In August, a study published in Psychiatry Research urged improving children’s access to mental health support services. And three months later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s latest report further emphasizes the toll COVID-19 and social isolation has continued to make on children’s mental health.

According to the CDC study published Thursday, the proportion of emergency room visits related to children’s mental health increased from March to October. More specifically, mental health-related emergency room visits increased 31 percent for youth between the ages of 12 and 17 between said months, compared to the same period in 2019. And for children between the ages of 5 and 11? A 24 percent increase in emergency room visits. The report also stated that the number of emergency room visits was higher among girls than boys.

The CDC analyzed data from 47 states that represent approximately 73 percent of emergency room visits in the U.S.

“These findings provide initial insight into children’s mental health in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and highlight the importance of continued monitoring of children’s mental health throughout the pandemic, ensuring access to care during public health crises, and improving healthy coping strategies and resiliency among children and families,” the CDC stresses.


With school closures and an increasing number of kids and teens enrolled in distance learning, children don’t interact with their peers and teachers as often as they used to. Add on top of that sports and extracurricular activity cancelations and other disruptions to their daily life, and kids could be left feeling isolated, stressed, and/or anxious.

Researchers add that because many children and teens receive mental health services from their respective schools, among other community clinics, parents are left increasingly reliant on emergency rooms for said services.

“Still, these data likely underestimate the actual number of mental health – related health care visits because many mental health visits occur outside of EDs [emergency departments],” the report states.

According to NBC News, teens are particularly impacted by the pandemic. Dr. Candice Norcott, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Chicago, told the outlet that teens “struggle with seeing down the road into a post-pandemic world and they are asking, ‘What’s the point?’ Teens also aren’t great with delayed gratification, so losing milestones and rites of passage like graduations, birthday parties, athletic seasons are felt deeply.”

Read the full report on the CDC’s website.

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.