VUMC stresses importance of mental health among children

Published: Jul. 19, 2022 at 5:04 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Health experts continue to see an uptick in the number of ER visits for children dealing with mental health emergencies.

“It’s important to be asking our kids about their current experiences,” said Dr. Meg Benningfield, Division Director for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at VUMC.

Dr. Benningfield says they saw increasing rates of children experiencing mental health crises even before the pandemic.

“We were seeing dramatic increases in the numbers of children presented to the Emergency department with suicidal thoughts or self-harm behaviors with extreme anxiety,” stated Dr. Benningfield.

It’s a topic that goes beyond the hospital. Bishop Marcus Campbell’s enrichment camp has been running for 17 years.

He has seen a significant increase in children dealing with depression in that time.

“It’s heartbreaking. Going back to my childhood, I didn’t have those thoughts. I was the happy-go-lucky kid and glad to get outside and play. But now, kids are dealing with a lot, especially with all their traumatic experiences. It plays a big factor in their mental health,” explained Bishop Campbell.

Dr. Benningfield says one of the most important things we can do is decrease the stigma related to talking about mental health.

“Many times, we are afraid to ask about things like suicidal thoughts or self-harm. What we have learned from teens is that it’s important for us to stay regulated ourselves,”

Dr. Benningfield said.

To bring awareness, The Vanderbilt Health Discoveries in Action podcast is kicking off a conversation with teens Wednesday during a live chat.

To listen to the conversation, log onto Twitter on July 20 at 10:30 a.m. and follow @vumc_insights.

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