According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mental health-related doctors’ visits for kids between the ages of 12 and 17 have jumped by almost a third during the pandemic. Social isolation is one reason for the uptick, says Lorena Ornelas, MA, LCSW, manager of social work services for CHEE’s Community-Based Practices team — but there are other reasons, too.
“Kids are missing their friends, absolutely,” Ornelas says. “But there’s also a lot of insecurity around social determinants of health: maybe their parents are unemployed, there’s not enough food, parents are struggling with navigating the technology for virtual school.” Some families have even had to rehome beloved pets because they can’t afford to feed them, which removes a valuable source of emotional support.
Young people and their families can get mental health support through Rush’s Adolescent Family Center (AFC) and School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs) on the West Side. These health centers offer primary care, sexual and reproductive health care and mental health support services for West Side youth.
Rush social workers offer mental health assessments and counseling in English and Spanish for young people ages 12 to 25 and can bring the whole family together for counseling sessions if needed. Appointments can happen in person, online or on the phone. And priority is given to families on the West Side, as well as families that use Medicaid or don’t have health insurance.
To help alleviate household stress, the team also connects families with resources for immediate needs like free, healthy food; paying utility bills; finding housing; enrolling in health insurance; connecting with a primary care doctor and more.
“The pandemic is making it a scary time to be in the world,” Ornelas says, “but it’s also a special time, because we’re able to spend more time with each other. Most of all, we adults should remember that we were kids too ... but not during a pandemic, so let’s cut kids some slack.”
If you’d like more information about Rush’s health centers or want to make an appointment:
- Please call (312) 942-2777
- Contact one of the SBHCs:
Ornelas recommends the following for trustworthy information about kids’ and teens’ mental health: