MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin's children are struggling. After nearly 2 years into the COVID-19 pandemic, health officials say the toll it's taking on kids is growing. And they want parents to be aware.
"Much like the pandemic crisis we have, we are in a mental health crisis and this is something that is not going to leave us very soon," said Dr. Ashley Schoof, PSYD, LP, BC-TMH, a senior clinical director at the STRONG Milwaukee Center.
Dr. Schoof, who works at a treatment center in Milwaukee that provides mental health services to children, says she's seen firsthand just how big of an impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on kids in the city.
"This time last year we probably had 10 to 12 children that we were processing in a referral or a waitlist kind of situation. Now we have over 60," said Dr. Schoof.
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As we enter the second year of the pandemic, health officials say a number of things are continuing to lead to the decline of children's mental health in the state. According to a recent study, nearly two-thirds of parents in the U.S. reported that their child had recently experienced a mental or emotional challenge.
"We know that reading and math levels have decreased, we know that anxiety, depression, and suicide rates are up in kids," said Dr. Michael Gutzeiz, chief medical officer for Children's Wisconsin.
Health officials say there's a number of things you can look for in your child to assess if they may be struggling.
"They may be responding by having really big blowing out tantrums, running out of classrooms, hitting siblings, swearing," said Dr. Schoof.
And there's always time to get them the help they need.
"Parents know their kids better than anybody," said Dr. Gutzeiz.
"One phone call is not going to hurt. One assessment just to really see and make sure that you're doing everything that you can is not going to hurt," said Dr. Schoof.
Health officials at the STRONG Milwaukee Center say they're working on expanding services within their treatment program in order to meet the needs of children in the community.