CDC reports a surge in kids visiting the ER for mental health issues

Nov 13, 2020, 5:38 PM | Updated: Jan 4, 2023, 2:45 pm
Primary Children's Hospital (Photo credit:
(Photo credit:

SALT LAKE CITY – A new report from the Centers for Disease Control says there’s been a spike in the number of kids going to the ER for mental health issues. Many hospitals in Utah say they’re not seeing the same surge, but they’re still worried. 

The CDC report showed a 31% increase in mental health visits to the ER nationally among children ages 12-17 since the COVID-19 pandemic started. There is a 24% jump for those ages 5-11. 

Primary Children’s Hospital Crisis Services Manager Robert Loftus says typically during the school year, they will see 150-200 kids a month treated for a mental health issue. 

“Normally, it is some combination of feeling suicidal or having acted upon suicidal feelings. We also see patients who are on the autism spectrum…their mood is dysregulated,” Loftus says. 

Loftus says the number of those types of emergency room visits actually went down earlier this year. 

Although the numbers are back to normal, there is still a lot of concern.

“Since about June, the numbers of crisis evaluations has increased back to the normal rate. So, the proportion of visits that show up for behavioral health concerns are actually greater than the proportion before the pandemic,” Loftus says. 

That means little Johnny or Susie may not be breaking their leg falling off a bike as often, but are more likely to end up in the ER with a mental health issue. 

The MountainStar hospital system says they also are not seeing a major surge in these types of ER visits.

Loftus says the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on kids’s mental health, which is why he encourages parents to keep an open line of communication with their children and learn to spot the signs of a problem like increased isolation or drug abuse.   

“Try and help them develop coping skills and resilience,” Loftus says. “I think if people are seeing an increase in depression symptoms in their children, they can look for counseling and other avenues to help them.”    


Related Links:

Study: Teens who spend more time in extracurricular activities, less on screens, have better mental health

The reason why self-care is more important to our mental health than ever

Tracking Utah’s mental health care needs during COVID-19… trends not clear yet

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

In the golden age of space exploration we live in, cosmic revelations seem to occur more frequently...
Ashley Strickland, CNN

Cosmic seaplanes and self-growing bricks could help us explore other worlds

In the golden age of space exploration we live in, cosmic revelations seem to occur more frequently than ever before.
22 hours ago
The Chinese national flag is seen at the entrance to the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing...
By Zachary Cohen, CNN

A look at China’s history of spying in the US

The suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that violated American airspace this week has fueled a diplomatic crisis with the postponement of Secretary of State Antony Blinken's planned trip to Beijing.
22 hours ago
Around 3:15 p.m. Saturday, February 4, a 34-year-old female sustained critical injuries after being...
Waverly Golden

AirMed responds to tubing accident in Peter Sinks, Logan

Around 3:15 p.m. Saturday, February 4, a 34-year-old female sustained critical injuries after being struck by a snowmobile.
22 hours ago
A balloon flies in the sky over Billings, Montana, U.S. February 1, 2023, in this picture obtained ...
Zachary Cohen, CNN

US military has shot down the Chinese spy balloon off US East Coast, US official says

The US military has shot down the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon over the Atlantic Ocean off the Eastern Seaboard, a US official said Saturday.
22 hours ago
The Goonies House...
Taylor Romine and Ralph Ellis, CNN

Man wanted for leaving a dead fish at ‘The Goonies’ house saved by Coast Guard in daring rescue

A man wanted by police in an incident at a house featured in "The Goonies" was the subject of a Coast Guard rescue when he was tossed from a stolen boat as it capsized, authorities said.
22 hours ago
SLCPD said the driver is fully cooperating with the investigation and the children received non-lif...
Chandler Holt

SLCPD makes arrest connected to fatal stabbing case

SLCPD announced the arrest of 26-year-old Ivy Chase Grant today. Grant was booked into Salt Lake County Metro Jail on a charge of obstruction of justice. 
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
CDC reports a surge in kids visiting the ER for mental health issues