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'It was horrible': Teen says COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated mental health issues

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Posted at 4:57 PM, Oct 26, 2021

KOKOMO — Health experts say we are in a mental health crisis, especially among teens.

A new survey conducted by the Harris Poll found seven in 10 teens are dealing with depression, anxiety or increased stress. 14-year-old Ireland King is one of them.

As someone who struggled with mental health before the pandemic, COVID-19 only exacerbated those issues for Ireland King.

“It was horrible,” Ireland said. “I had no self-confidence. I didn’t want to leave my room. I didn’t even feel like eating. My family felt like I didn’t like them because I was so rude all the time.”

Her mother Michelle knew something was wrong. Ireland became suicidal. At one point, the 14-year old says she even planned her own suicide.

“She kept crying all the time and she basically came out and said she didn’t want to be here anymore,” Michelle said. “More than once.”

At school one day, King said, “we got a phone call from the nurse and Ireland had done some self harm.”

They then rushed her to a behavioral health center for in-patient treatment.

“It was hard to see all those kids in there, too,” Michelle said. “It is soon as one leaves, another one comes in.”

“The night I went in, I had a roommate that was supposed to leave that day. And they did,” Ireland said. “And then that night, I had a new roommate. That’s how quickly they come in.”

The family says she was only allowed to stay at the facility for six days. Then, began their crusade of calling 30-plus mental health facilities all over Indiana, only to be told time after time, they say, that either they don’t offer in-patient adolescent treatment or they’re full right now.

“I was scared I wasn’t going to be able to get help because there is not enough room anywhere,” Ireland said.

“Like a lot of companies, where are the workers? Because there’s the need,” said April Bordeau, Care to Change Counseling executive director. “The need is definitely there. And so unfortunately because of that, the people that are employed are booked.”

Bordeaux said she’s been trying to hire more licensed clinicians, but the field is experiencing high burnout while children continue to suffer.

“If you called your pediatrician today because your child’s stomach is hurting and they said well we have an appointment in four weeks, that’s not good enough. I need help for my child right now,” Bordeau said. “And so it’s the same thing for mental health.”

“There needs to be something,” Ireland said. “Something needs to change.”

“I’m not willing to let her slip to the cracks and no other family should either,” Michelle said.

Care to Change Counseling suggests parents get involved if they notice the following changes in their child: irritability, difficulty sleeping, angry outbursts, stating they feel depressed or sad, their grades start slipping, or their eating patterns change.

Resources

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate attention, call 911.

You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You can also connect with the Crisis Text Line 24/7 by texting HOME to 741741.