Skip to main content

Haley is a first-year teacher working with children in Minneapolis. Like many teachers, not just in this state, but nationwide she has felt and seen the impact COVID-19 has had on her students' mental health.

"It’s amazing to work with these kids because it is challenging and rewarding," Haley said. "I see their signs of mental health all around me – in the form of their behaviors, words, actions, and how they communicate. I spend more time with these kids than my own family, so I know when they are feeling any type of feeling out of their usual 'box of normal.'"

Some days, she says it’s hard but understands it’s not the kids’ fault.

In October, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association declared a national state of emergency in child and adolescent mental health and called on policymakers to join them.

In a joint statement, they said even before the pandemic, mental health challenges facing children were of great concern and COVID-19 exacerbated them.

"We have children boarding in emergency rooms for days and weeks waiting for an inpatient bed," said Sue Abderholden, Executive Director, NAMI Minnesota. “So, the need is great. Frankly, it's getting worse."

The need is something Children’s Minnesota saw, saying in part that the shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists alone has also been a barrier to expanding mental health care for many systems, including its own.

That’s why they are opening their first inpatient mental health center in St. Paul in 2022 to support kids 18 and younger.

The facility will provide 22 private rooms that will allow parents to stay overnight with their children. This will be in conjunction with the outpatient mental health services offered by Children’s Minnesota.

“We have a long-standing history of providing exceptional care in the outpatient setting but feel a sense of responsibility to be able to meet the needs of children regardless of where they access us," said Jamie Winter, director of behavior health at Children’s Minnesota.

"Building out our mental health care continuum, which includes the introduction of our inpatient center and partial hospitalization day programs, will fulfill our vision to be every family’s essential partner in raising healthier children.”

While the inpatient center will provide a much-needed resource, Winter says the ideal situation is intervening early and connecting families with outpatient services before things escalate.

“Our hope is always to engage children and families at the earliest point possible to get them connected with outpatient care in one of our clinics. We want families to know that we’ll be available if their child needs to come to one of our emergency departments or be hospitalized for a mental health concern, but our goal is to intervene sooner so that level of care isn’t necessary,” said Winter.

Children’s Minnesota also plans on opening a second mental health day program where kids who need intensive outpatient services can go.

Experts say the pandemic may eventually recede but the mental health effects on kids will be around much longer. However, if there is any good in this, Haley says it's that the stigma about mental health is dissolving and more conversations are happening.

"I think this generation is talking about it more and therefore it is becoming more of a societal norm to discuss mental health. In addition, they are taking on the trauma of their parents and grandparents bottling in their mental health problems in the form of generational trauma,” she said.

Abderholden says when society collectively acknowledges, everyone has a role to play in addressing the mental health of children in the community. More resources can be offered to families, therefore, shifting away from the blaming narrative that it is up to one entity or person to fix the issue. She says it starts with early intervention.

“Minnesota has a program called Schooling to Mental Health and it passed back in 2007," said Abderholden. “What happens is that grant money actually goes to a community mental provider, who then co-relocates in the school, so you eliminate barriers to access for treatment for families.

"By having therapists in the school, parents don’t have to worry. There are no barriers there.”

Sign up: Subscribe to our BREAKING NEWS newsletters

But as America comes to grips with the pandemic, there remains some reticence to increase funding for child mental health services.

At the most recent local elections, voters in the Anoka-Hennepin School District were asked to vote on expanding a mental health academic support funded by the government and 55% voted no.

Superintendent David Law says federal funds are supporting this resource for two years, and if voters had voted yes, it would have allowed them to extend the program for ten years and beyond.

Nationwide, similar votes are happening. A recent NBC report noted that some of the parent and political groups who oppose so-called "Critical Race Theory" are now voicing opposition to suicide prevention programs, mental health coordinators and social emotional learning in schools, claiming they are being used to indoctrinate students.

Next Up

Screen Shot 2022-01-24 at 3.48.57 PM

Suspect crashes into Minneapolis snow plow, fires shots at plow driver

The plow driver was pulled to the side of the road when the incident happened.

cold Minneapolis

Coldest day of the winter is possible this week in Minnesota

An air temp of -30F isn't out of the question too far from the metro.

polley freeborn county jail roster jan 2022 resize

District fires school counselor accused of sexually assaulting student

He's been charged with felony criminal sexual conduct.

Moorhead family

Authorities pinpoint source of CO that killed family of 7

The victims, all members of Hernandez-Pinto family, were found dead in a Moorhead home.

polymet mining

Court issues mixed ruling on PolyMet, orders more analysis on water permit

The court, however, overruled several challenges to the permit.

SPPD Kua person of interest 01-24-2022

Police release images of woman driving stolen Audi that had puppy inside

It's not clear whether she was involved in the vehicle theft.

J R Jones - Anoka County Jail 2021.10.16 - Resize crop

Fatal hit-and-run driver can avoid prison time with plea deal

He was charged with striking and killing a 56-year-old who was walking her dog.

Screen Shot 2022-01-24 at 11.21.49 AM

Alex Rodriguez: 'I'm not a Packers fan'

He was at Lambeau screaming "Cheese!" and "Let's go!" during the playoff game against the 49ers.

St. Paul Police Department

Woman killed in St. Paul's North End identified as 31-year-old

A 35-year-old man has been arrested in connection to the shooting.

Related

bethesda hospital

Fairview's hospital closures raise mental health concerns

Fairview Health Services' closure of two hospitals will mean fewer inpatient mental health beds in the area.

cambia hills east bethal

Mental health treatment facility for teens announces sudden closure

Cambia Hills of East Bethel shared the news of its abrupt closure this week.

Children's Minnesota

Unseasonable RSV, COVID-19 continue to 'stretch capacity' at Children’s MN

Health experts expect things to become even more active with kids returning to school.

Teens are (mostly) making healthier choices – but mental health is a concern

Fewer teens have sex or use drugs, alcohol and tobacco. But more smoke e-cigs and have mental health concerns.

Governor Tim Walz

'You are part of this response': Walz answers student journalists on pandemic

"You're seeing this, and I just can't believe you think this is the best way to live," he told students of the nation's divisive climate.