Mental health toll from isolation affecting kids on reentry

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After two suicidal crises during pandemic isolation, 16-year-old Zach Sampson feels stronger but worries his social skills have gone stale.

Amara Bhatia has overcome her pandemic depression but the teen feels worn down, in a state of “neutralness.” Virginia Shipp is adjusting but says returning to normal “is kind of unnormal for me.’’

After relentless months of social distancing, online schooling and other restrictions, many kids are feeling the pandemic’s toll or facing new challenges navigating reentry.

A surge in teen suicide attempts and other mental health crises prompted Children’s Hospital Colorado to declare a state of emergency in late May, when emergency department and hospital inpatient beds were overrun with suicidal kids and those struggling with other psychiatric problems. Typical emergency-department waiting times for psychiatric treatment doubled in May to about 20 hours, said Jason Williams, a pediatric psychologist at the hospital in Aurora.

Other children’s hospitals are facing similar challenges.

In typical times, the activities that come as the school year ends — finals, prom, graduations, summer job-seeking — can be stressful even for the most resilient kids.

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