TALLAHASSEE, Florida (WTXL) – Over the past year, the Apalachee Center says it has seen a 20% increase in children suffering from a mental illness from the pandemic.
With online schooling, people work with masks and social distance.
“We’ve all had a lot of changes over the last year and a half,” said Emily Pritchard, Department of Child and Family Services.
He said these changes became a difficult reality for children.
“Our kids go to school and then leave or have to spend time quarantining outside of their friends so they can’t participate and have the support of classmates they’ve had before,” Pritchard said.
Jay Reeve, president and CEO of the Apalachee Center, said this caused an increase in depression, anxiety and behavior problems, and admitted many children to the Apalachee Center’s BEACH unit, which means Behavioral Excellence in Children Health.
“He’s an acute child psychiatric patient who is between the ages of 6 and 18,” Reeve said.
He said the program was first established in 2018 because it increased the need for psychiatric care for children.
From 2017-2019, Reeve said there was a 17% rise each year, but in 2020 it was even higher, at 20%.
“One of the great things we’ve seen is with virtual school,” Reeve said. “I think one of the things that people didn’t necessarily anticipate with this move was the level of structure that the school provides to most children, parents can’t do it 24 hours a day.”
The pandemic also added more stress to parents, doubling the number of child abuses from the Department of Child and Family Services.
“These children are also dealing with the consequences of what their parents go through,” said Jamie Adleta, director of the child psychiatric unit at the Apalachee Center.
Reeve said the BEACH unit helped 555 children last year alone.
“If your child broke a bone or had problems with blood pressure or diabetes, he would not hesitate to take them to the hospital,” Adleta said. “If they’re struggling with anxiety, depression or any other mental illness, that’s why we’re here.”