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Be Mindful: How the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the mental health of children

MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. (KION-TV)- Salinas Valley Health Doctor Erica Locke has been practicing medicine for 15 years and she has been seeing a troubling trend.

"I've never seen rates of children requiring emergency hospitalization for psychiatric crisis more than I've seen in the past two to three years," Locke said.

Locke is the director of the Substance Use Disorder Program at Salinas Valley Health. A study by the Children's Hospital of Chicago found emergency rooms treated more kids for severe psychiatric issues including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and substance use disorders.

"And I think that is a huge part of that is the isolation that kids had in the pandemic," Locke said.

The study showed that the numbers were higher for girls than boys.

"I think one of the things and one of the biggest critiques that I see in our country is that we didn't create infrastructure," Locke said.

Locke says now more than ever there has to be a long-term commitment to children's mental health.

"So we are in the moment were we are trying to catch up," Locke said. "We are trying to get our kids to test scores better and we haven't set up the scaffolding for mental health services for them."

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