More Alaska Youth are Visiting the ER for Mental and Behavioral Health Problems Post-Pandemic

When the U.S. began shutting down in March 2020, many Alaskans believed restaurant closures, virtual learning, canceled sports and self-quarantining would only last a few weeks. But weeks turned into months and now the pandemic timeline is nearing a year.

According to a November 2020 report by Juneau’s Bartlett Regional Hospital, between July 2020 to September 2020, an average of 10 children per month, age 13 and younger, visited the hospital’s psychiatric ER. That’s up from earlier in the pandemic, where the monthly average was seven, between April 2020 to June 2020. Pre-pandemic, the hospital reported on average, one child would visit the psychiatric ER per month.


The numbers are even higher for teens ages 14 to 17. Before the pandemic started, the hospital saw on average, four teens per month in the psychiatric ER. From April 2020 to June 2020, the number rose to nine. Between July 2020 to September 2020, an average of 14 teens visited the psychiatric ER per month.


Juneau’s Bartlett Regional Hospital’s report says a majority of the children and teens said during their visit this was their first time experiencing a mental or behavioral health crisis. They reported a sharp increase in depression, anxiety and substance misuse due to the stressors associated with COVID-19. These stressors included isolation from friends, lack of sports and struggles with virtual learning.


There was also a sharp increase in patients visiting Bartlett Outpatient Psychiatric Services. Pre-COVID, the center saw an average of four new youths (ages 17 and younger) per month. Between April 2020 to September 2020, that rose to 13 youth intakes per month. And by October 2020, it has risen to nearly 16 new monthly intakes.


The data in this article is from patients seen in the Bartlett Regional Hospital’s Emergency Department and Bartlett Outpatient Psychiatric Services. It’s not inclusive of other mental and behavioral health providers in Juneau. The data is from Bartlett Behavioral health.


If you’re worried about a young person in your life, we’re here to help. Please contact our The Link intake center. Knowledgeable staff will answer any questions about services and philosophies, and can schedule and complete integrated behavioral health and substance use assessments.You can reach The Link at(907) 789-7610.