Sobering statistics show the struggle today's youth are having with their mental health, and the alarming numbers don't even include the life-changing conditions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to an analysis of more than 4.7 millions hospitalizations of minors across the U.S., hospitalizations related to a suicide attempt or self-harm increased by 163% from 2009 to 2019.

The findings out of Dartmouth, which were published in late March, showed a 25% jump over the 10-year period in annual hospitalizations among minors for a mental health diagnosis.

"In 2019, almost two-thirds of pediatric mental health hospitalizations had a diagnosis of suicide or self-injury, and mental health hospitalizations accounted for more than one-quarter of hospital days and almost half of interfacility transfers among children and adolescents," researchers wrote. "These findings underscore the growing effect of mental health diagnoses on the well-being of children in the U.S."

Youth mental health and COVID

The study analyzed the Kids' Inpatient Database, which is said to be the largest nationally representative sample of pediatric acute care hospital discharges in the country.

The information is published approximately every three years. Data from 2022 should include the impact of the COVID-19 emergency on the mental health of youth. Experts expect the numbers to present even more red flags for families and policymakers.

"We're definitely seeing an increase in adolescent mental health concerns, anxiety, depression, suicidality," Tanya Lewis, vice president of psychiatric services for CarePlus NJ, told New Jersey 101.5. "The pandemic did kind of exacerbate a lot of risk factors for depression."

Some adolescents, Lewis said, have great insight and will let their families know when they are struggling mentally. But in most cases, it'll likely be the adults — at home or school — who need to speak up.

"Some families feel like if they ask the question, that they are putting things in their child's head," Lewis said. "The more alarming thing is, the child has those thoughts, and no one's asking about it."

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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