Over the past weeks, together with the easing of coronavirus restrictions and getting "back to normal", there has been a significant rise in referrals to the Emergency Medicine Department (ER) at Schneider Children's due to a range of emotional and mental conditions, such as substance poisoning, suicide attempts, side-effects of medications taken without close medical follow-up, and deterioration in existing mental disorders.
The case of D, a teenager who arrived recently at Schneider Children's, is one of many that has been treated. She got used to learning at home, was happy that there were no exams and that there was no need to argue with her parents about bedtime or arising. She enjoyed not having to decide what to wear and the freedom whether to be in contact with her friends or not. Most of the day she surfed the web and participated passively in distance learning, all within the confines of her room. A month after the "isolation", D started to feel bored, a sense of aimlessness without meaning, and found herself "hiding" for hours watching TV series' and eating more. Watching the "beautiful and successful" lives of other people in the media, she was unable to fall asleep and felt alone dealing with her mood swings. When the return to school neared, she felt pressured, helpless, disinterested and a huge emptiness. When she arrived at the ER after swallowing 50 kinds of different medications that she found in the medicine cupboard at home, she was semi-conscious but able to tell the staff, "I only wanted to sleep properly".
Prof. Sylvana Fennig, Director of the Psychological Medicine Department at Schneider Children's, explained that the rise in the number of emotional and physical cases arriving at the hospital was due to an accumulation of mental stress that was exacerbated due to the coronavirus: "The expectation of returning to normalcy with the accompanying fears (such as the case of a child who took an overdose of Ritalin so that he could concentrate better), the accumulated anxiety in families, the economic crises that affected the family, the tension and pressure of coping socially with the return to the educational setting, addiction to the media, changes in sleeping habits, and more. A high percentage of cases arrived in the department following statements, gestures and suicide attempts. We have to be attentive and ready to identify early signs of distress and refer the child to the appropriate professionals for help."
Schneider Children's treats children within a broad physical-emotional perspective. The ER refers children and youth with various severe symptoms, both physical and mental, who initially arrive in the ER. Because Schneider Children's is a medical center for children, this minimizes objections and stigma for families, referrals and young patients in need that usually accompanies referrals to a psychiatric institution.
The Department of Medical Psychology at Schneider is used to crisis intervention and receives children for a broad range of emotional problems, difficult mental disorders, medication imbalance, behavioral issues, substance abuse and emotional disorders related to the body such as eating disorders.