Members of the Illinois State Senate Mental and Behavioral Health Committee gathered Thursday morning in Chicago to hear various expert reports on the mental health and wellness challenges facing local youth.
In recent years, schools and mental health clinics have documented how the COVID-19 pandemic, gun violence, widespread use of social media among children, and more have contributed to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation among young people in All country.
The issues have also impacted Evanston’s youth, and administrators at Evanston Township High School have spoken at board meetings in recent months about the need for expanded student support services and the importance of simply talking about mental health on a regular basis.
Thirty-three percent of all ETHS students said that stress had affected their daily lives for at least 11 days in the past month, while 30% said they felt sad or hopeless on most days for at least two weeks, from According to student survey responses in the 2020 -2021 school year.
ETHS also saw a 104% increase in the number of suicide risk assessments from the fall quarter of 2019 to the fall quarter of 2021, according to data presented to the board in March by associate director of student services Taya Kinzie and principal Marcus Campbell.
Based on data collected by the Student Services team, 106 students were hospitalized for psychiatric problems in the 2020-21 year, down from 116 the year before. But 26 students suffered multiple hospitalizations, compared with just 12 who did the year before.
“You can’t have physical health without having mental health, and this is a point we need to take home for everyone,” said State Senator Laura Fine, who represents Evanston and other northern suburbs of Chicago. “It’s okay to talk about your mental health issue, and it shouldn’t be any different than treating a physical health issue.”
However, in Illinois, one of the most dire problems facing psychiatric care is the lack of beds in inpatient units where children can get the services and support they need, said Dr. John Walkup of Lurie Children’s Hospital at Thursday’s hearing.
The lack of enough beds to meet the demand for psychiatric care among Illinois’ youth has also forced local schools to send students out of state to receive the hospital treatment they need, Fine said. As a result, the most urgent action the state must take is to create facilities with more staff and more beds to treat youth in a mental health crisis.
“When we talk about beds, we’re talking about where a child might go in a crisis, when we fear they might harm themselves or someone else,” Fine told RoundTable during an interview following Thursday’s hearing. . “Where can they go to satisfy their needs?”
During this spring’s legislative session, the state passed several laws aimed at increasing investments in mental health support and expanding its ability to treat those in need. In March, Governor JB Pritzker announced the creation of the Children’s Behavioral Health Transformation Initiative, led by University of Chicago child wellness expert Dana Weiner.
Weiner spoke with state senators at Thursday’s committee hearing about the work in progress on the initiative and said one of its key goals is to increase collaboration between state departments to help find placements for children to receive inpatient services efficiently and efficiency.
Weiner and his team are currently testing a new computer program to support these cooperative efforts so the state can find the right services for every child in crisis.
The committee also discussed the topic of mental health services for minors in juvenile detention centers across the state. Historically, these centers have met the basic physical needs of children in detention, but they often lack the resources to provide mental health care to the children who need it most.
“Some of these kids that are detained are detained because they did something that can be traced back to any mental health issue,” Fine said. “And if they can get the proper services they need and the help they need, that would put them on a completely different path.”
But one of the positive developments of the pandemic is the expansion of telehealth services, according to Fine.
Since telehealth appointments became more common when the pandemic began in March 2020, many more people have sought psychiatric support because they feel more comfortable in their own home, where they may feel less stigmatized for making an appointment.
“From my point of view, I think people need to feel comfortable talking about mental health, and I think there needs to be a place for someone to go, because when you’re in crisis, that crisis can’t wait,” Fine told newspaper. Round table. “We need to make sure you also get this affordable, quality mental health care. This would be a game changer for so many lives.”