The Gregorio Marañón Hospital warns of the increase in mental health disorders in children and adolescents


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The Gregorio Marañón General University Hospital has detected an increase in serious mental health disorders in children and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 18 in recent months. Above all, collect Ep, suicidal ideation income has increased, young people who have tried or are thinking about it, and also, due to eating disorders, mainly anorexia nervosa, the Hospital has informed in a statement.

The director of the Institute of Psychiatry and Mental Health of the General University Hospital Gregorio Marañón, Celso Arango, explained that one of the causes of this growth in the incidence of mental health in young people is due to confinement and restrictions due to the pandemic have coincided with a particularly sensitive evolutionary moment “since it is when they begin to make decisions, to feel autonomous, to project themselves into the future, to depend on social relationships for their development …”. In addition, he has indicated that there is a tendency to think at these ages that much of what happens is irreversible in time. Thus, he has stated that this situation has caused a “huge scar” in this population.

«An increasing number of minors have felt hopeless, have difficulty finding meaning in their lives, verbalize ideas of death, become more insecure, sad, anxious, impulsive, self-harm or stop eating because it is the only way they feel who have control over their body, “said Dr. Arango. For her part, the psychiatrist of the Adolescent Admission Unit of the Institute of Psychiatry and Mental Health of Marañón María Dolores Picouto has indicated that “early detection and prevention are very important.”

Communication, habits and diet

For this reason, facing the beginning of the school year, «fostering relationships and communication with the family is essential since it has been shown to protect against mental illnesses in minors. It is essential that children and adolescents carry out activities as a family and that they feel supported, but they must also have clear limits. In addition, he has advised to take care of the routines at all levels. Specific, if we talk about sleep, it has highlighted the importance of sleeping between 9 and 10 hours a day, which is recommended at these ages. As for food, there should be no prohibited foods, you have to try to follow a healthy and varied diet, without skipping meals. The psychiatrist has also highlighted “exercise brings physical benefits to adolescents, since obesity and sedentary lifestyle are prevented, in addition to increasing self-esteem and helping to regulate negative emotions such as anxiety or sadness.”

Experts also point out that friendships play a very important role in adolescence. From childhood it is essential that they learn to develop skills to maintain interpersonal relationships based on mutual respect and thus avoid isolation. On the other hand, they highlight that it is necessary to educate children and adolescents in the responsible and safe use of the internet, social networks and video games. The objective is that the impact of new technologies is positive for the development of children and adolescents, otherwise, mental problems associated with their inappropriate use may appear, as has happened during confinement with excessive exposure to screens, social networks and internet.

Symptoms to watch out for

Family members who live with minors are the ones who can best make an early detection of any mental health problem, they have pointed out from the Hospital. Celso Arango has warned parents that if they perceive that their children suffer behavioral changes, increased irritability, sadness, susceptibility, isolation, sleep and eating disorders, excessive preoccupation with your physical image, feeling of hopelessness, talk excessively or with concern about aspects related to death, among others, that they are «very pending and that they make an appointment with their pediatrician or primary care doctor so that, if they deem it appropriate, they can be referred to specialized care and that the situation do not become chronic in time ».

The second cause of death in children and adolescents is suicide, only behind accidents. Suicide cases are related to mental disorder in up to more than 95 percent of cases. The manifestation of minors taking their own life or asking about death is one more symptom of a basic mental disorder. Therefore, they report that it is necessary for family members to be attentive to these signs, since minors can be treated and as a result of the treatment and their improvement, what doctors call “Suicidal ideation.” “Suicide can be prevented”, Arango has asserted.

Eating disorders

As for the increase in eating disorders, specialists have pointed out that it has been “very important” after the pandemic, both new cases and exacerbation of young people who already had some type of disorder of this type. «When a minor is found to stop eating, to lose weight quickly, to have strange behavior around meals, to disappear after eating, to exercise excessively, to worry about calories or to cause vomiting, You have to act and ask for help so that you do not reach low weights that are later very difficult to recover. The sooner he is treated, the better his prognosis will be ”, Arango has indicated.

Mental Health Nurse Specialist

With the aim of improving the care of children and adolescents who come for an emergency related to mental health, the Gregorio Marañón Hospital has launched, in a pioneering way in Spain, the figure of the specialist mental health nurse in the Pediatric Emergency Service.

Specifically, Julio González is a specialist mental health nurse and every day he attends to patients and their families. “When minors arrive at the emergency room, the most important thing is to create a safe space and carry out a comprehensive and integrated approach to the patient and the family. We removed the stigma of mental health and began to work from minute one on a program of alternatives, “he said.

To this, he added that he would tell young people who do not feel well to ask for help. “When one is able to express what is happening to them, even if they do not understand it, they already begin their path to improvement and that is important,” he said.

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