‘We have no other choices’: Child mental health hospitalizations increasing in the Panhandle

Published: Apr. 19, 2023 at 5:40 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 19, 2023 at 5:43 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Hospitals around the United States and in the Panhandle are seeing a rise in child mental health hospitalizations.

A recent study of hospital admissions throughout the country found mental health hospitalization increased nearly 26 percent, over a 10-year span.

It also found a large rise in those hospitalizations involving suicidal or self-harming behavior.

Northwest Texas Health Care System’s Behavioral Health Center says it is seeing a rise in these mental health issues here in the Panhandle.

“It’s gotten to the point that we have no other choices and that inpatient is probably our best and safest option,” said Eric Martinez, counselor, NWTHS Behavioral Health.

One area Licensed Professional Counselor believes the reason for this is because of a lack of resources.

“I’ve spoken with actually several teenagers in the past few weeks, and all of them, several of them have been in a state where they needed more than just counseling once a week, but the only options in our area are either being fully hospitalized or just managing by themselves,” said Jacqueline Flynt, LPC.

Another reason could be parents may not know the signs to look for, so children were unable to receive help sooner.

“Contrary to popular belief, most of the time when a child makes an outcry that they’re struggling with hurting themselves or have a desire to hurt themselves in some way, they are not looking for attention, they are looking for help,” said Flynt.

Martinez says many of the children he sees, say their parents do not believe them.

“Mental illness is just as prevalent and possible in the juvenile population, kids can be depressed, they can feel anxiety, this can happen,” states Martinez.

Mental health experts say talking with your children is important, but also listening to them.

It is also important to pay attention to any shift in behavior.

“Maybe they used to be a really good sleeper and suddenly they’re waking up all through the night or the opposite, they used to be energetic all day long and now all they want to do is sleep, changes in appetite, changes in energy level and motivation for their everyday tasks,” said Flynt.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with suicide or self-harm, 988 is the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, which can be used 24/7.