Experts: Kansas on verge of mental health crisis for children, teens

KVC hospital
Posted at 5:39 PM, Sep 02, 2021

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kansas is on the verge of a mental health crisis for children and teens, according to Kansas City metro experts.

KVC Hospitals, 4300 Brenner Drive, is receiving more calls to its Children's Psychiatric Hospital about children in crisis than ever before.

With a 60% increase in calls, Annmarie Arensberg, director of clinical operations at KVC Hospitals, said it's never been more important for parents to have open and honest conversations, that are free from judgment, with their children.

"How are you feeling? How are you managing these things? What are the stressors that are causing you anxiety right now?" Arensberg said.

Over the past 10 years, Arensberg said, she has seen an alarming increase in mental health issues in children and teens. But this year, the numbers are far worse.

"We’re seeing kids come in for greater attempts at suicide or more severe attempts," Arensberg said, "and that can be obviously really concerning because we know every life matters, every child matters, we want every child to feel heard to feel seeing it to feel connected."

Doctors at the University of Kansas Health System said the COVID-19 pandemic likely plays a large role.

"It's taken a toll to not be able to sort of get back to some of the normal routines," said Dr. Brad Nelson, a pediatrician with the health system. "So in addition to the health effects, they're also seeing the psychological effects of just not being able to be kids."

While hospitals like KVC specialize in helping children cope with mental health struggles, experts said the work really begins at home with open and honest conversations between parents and children.

KVC has a variety of resources for parents on its website, including a free mental health assessment for children and teens.