Doctors see alarming increase in mental health issues among teens

Posted at 6:36 PM, May 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-03 19:36:41-04

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Local doctors are seeing an alarming rise in mental health issues among teenagers.

Dr. Michael Lewis, medical director of the pediatric intensive care unit at the University of Kansas Health System, said many teens missed their yearly wellness exam last year due to the pandemic.

"Every practice around has had not hundreds, but thousands less of those well exam visits where our job is to pick up on what’s going on," Lewis said. "Before we hit rock bottom, we can talk about some stuff and get some kids into resources."

Lewis said as many kids are now back in school or doing various activities, doctors are seeing a massive spike in mental health issues when they come in for a visit.

"The A, B student has had many failing grades and all of the isolation that they’ve gone through and they’ve lost some of their friends and you throw in all the social media issues that were always there even before the pandemic," Lewis said.

Lewis is asking parents to prioritize getting their children the care they need.

"Please, please be sure you are getting your kid to their medical home," Lewis said.

Blue Valley North High School graduate Tanisha Manjunath said losing the in-person school experience is likely the root of many students' mental health struggles.

"It’s given a lot of people anxiety and depression because you don’t know what to expect online whereas in person you can expect something, but online it’s like a completely different routine no one has been used to," Manjunath said.

Manjunath said the pandemic does have a silver lining, however.

"I feel like the pandemic has helped people see mental health and a new perspective and see how people are affected by it," Manjunath said.

Sabeen Ahmed, Blue Valley West High School junior, said even without a pandemic, teens are dealing with a lot of pressure, much of it from social media.

Ahmed hopes parents will keep that in mind.

"I feel like often times parents are like, 'Oh this is just a stage, he’ll grow out of it,'" Ahmed said. "Unfortunately, it’s not always a stage and we would rather you take more precaution than needed."

Ahmed wants anyone struggling to know they aren't alone and to reach out for help.

"It’s OK to not be OK. It’s OK to say 'I need help' and 'I want somebody to help me,'" Ahmed said.