US teens are making fewer mental health emergency visits as pandemic eases, CDC says

Improved mental health among US adolescents is possibly caused by the return to school, reduced isolation

U.S. adolescents made fewer weekly emergency department (ED) visits for mental health conditions in Fall 2022 compared to a year earlier, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Thursday.

By late 2022, pandemic restrictions had been loosened or lifted and adolescents had generally returned to schools, with better social engagement and reduced isolation linked with improved mental and behavioral health, the researchers noted.

However, while mental health emergency visits for adolescents overall during that year fell by 11%, poor mental and behavioral health in this age group remains a substantial public health issue, they said.


Between Fall 2021 and Fall 2022, weekly ED visits for opioid-involved overdoses increased by 41% in adolescent males and by 10% in females, according to data published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

And compared to three years earlier, the number of ED visits by females in Fall 2022 was unchanged for mental health conditions overall, 14% higher for suicide-related behaviors, and 16% higher for drug overdoses, the researchers found.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters is seen in Atlanta, Georgia, on Sept. 30, 2014.  (REUTERS/Tami Chappell)

Among adolescent males, numbers of weekly visits in Fall 2022 for mental health conditions overall were lower than in Fall 2019 but were unchanged for suicide-related behaviors and drug overdoses.

Any adolescent overdose is concerning, particularly with adolescents' increased access to highly potent and lethal counterfeit pills containing illicitly manufactured fentanyl via social media platforms, the CDC said.

A recent report by the CDC also showed that fentanyl-related deaths in the United States more than tripled over five years.

The CDC said early identification of at-risk individuals and trauma-informed interventions, coupled with evidence-based, comprehensive prevention efforts, are needed to support adolescents' mental and behavioral health.

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