Mental health conditions rising in kids and adolescents, report shows

Local psychologists are struggling to keep up with the increase in demand.

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas – A rise in child and adolescent mental health conditions is being blamed on the pandemic.

In 2021, a national emergency was declared for children’s mental health by several pediatric health organizations.

A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report shows a troubling trend that more young people are experiencing and needing treatment for mental health conditions.

“It’s a big, big jump. So we want to look at things such as stress,” said Anne Esquivel, founder and CEO of Mind Works.

Esquivel specializes in working with kids ages 3 to 17. She has seen the increase firsthand.

“We added one location in 2020, 2021 and now 2022. We opened up our biggest location in order to be able to meet the needs of the children in San Antonio,” Esquivel said.

CDC data shows the number of young adolescent women dealing with eating disorders has doubled and those coping with tic disorders have tripled during the pandemic.

Depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders are also rising.

“All of the different types of behavioral and psychological issues that manifest with children when they are under stress,” Esquivel said.

Stress for things like virtual learning, not being able to socialize with their peers and being homebound.

Unfortunately, there’s been a rise in self-harm and suicide.

“We look at that. And what is it tied to? It’s tied to depression, anxiety, loneliness,” Esquivel said.

For parents, Esquivel says to look for behavior changes in your kids. Are they sleeping more or less? Are there any attitude shifts?

It’s important to talk with your children and ask them how they are and if there are any thoughts of self-harm.

“Adults need to ask and be interested, need to be empathic and to really believe their children when they’re being told these things,” Esquivel said.

After they listen, parents need to act.

While all of Esquivel’s offices have waiting lists to be seen, don’t let that deter you.

Esquivel says there are nonprofits in our area that can help. One of those is the Clarity Child Guidance Center, which specializes in kids ages 3 to 17 and can help regardless of a family’s financial situation.

About the Authors:

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Gavin Nesbitt is a photojournalist and video editor who joined KSAT in September 2021. He has traveled across the great state of Texas to film, conduct interviews and edit many major news stories, including the White Settlement church shooting, Hurricane Hanna, 2020 presidential campaigns, Texas border coverage and the Spurs.