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COVID In Colorado: Teen Mental Health Suffering During Pandemic

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) - The COVID-19 pandemic is pushing hospital resources to another extreme. As ICU beds fill, the beds inside the inpatient unit of the adolescent psychiatric unit at the HealthONE Behavioral Health and Wellness center is also at capacity.

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"Adolescent patients and families are struggling now more than they have in the past," said Dr. Zach Robinson, a Psychiatrist at Medical Center of Aurora.

Emergency room visits are up, and if a child is admitted to the hospital their stay on average five to nine days to get treatment.

"We're seeing increased rates of suicide attempts, especially in adolescent girls, increases in depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders," Dr. Robinson said.

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At HealthONE facilities around the metro area they've tried to increase services, expanding behavioral health services to new neighborhoods, and implementing new programs to help kids with outpatient care since there aren't enough beds in a full inpatient unit.

Dr. Robinson says many different kids are having different struggles. Some with substance abuse, others with issues around schooling. Months ago, doctors have seen kids who have struggled being out of school and out of structure begin to have mental health challenges. More recently there's been an uptick in kids who are struggling returning to school and the anxiety in new social situations.

He wants parents and other people in the lives of teens to be on the lookout to help.

"Opening up communication, lines of communication with your children. Being able to openly talk about depression and symptoms around depression. Being able to talk about anxiety or suicidal thoughts," Robinson said. "Now is always a good time for therapy."

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The state recently began a program called I Matter, which provides three therapy sessions with a professional for free.

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