Virginia children facing more mental health struggles, providers struggling to keep up with demand

90% of physicians asked said they saw an increase in the number of children struggling with their mental health

ROANOKE, Va. – According to the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, more children in Virginia are facing mental health struggles than ever before.

While the demand for children struggling has increased, the number of providers available to help is dwindling.

Many families seeking help are met with long waitlists, like Family Service of Roanoke Valley.

“We have a waitlist,” Clinical Director Sarah Harig said. “I don’t know any provider that doesn’t have a waitlist. And if they don’t maybe they’re scheduling several months in advance for these folks and that’s for all ages but especially again for youth.”

According to the latest information from the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, 90% of doctors they spoke with said they saw an increase in demand for mental health services.

“So, not only do we need the mental health, but we have no one to provide the service. So these youth are really struggling with their mental health services and aren’t able to gain access to people who can help,” Harig said.

Out of nearly 125,000 children in Virginia who have experienced at least one major depressive episode, 62% of them did not receive any mental health treatment.

Harig shared some signs parents and caregivers should be on the lookout for.

“Things like withdrawing from activities that they might have enjoyed before,” Harig said. “Isolation from their loved ones, friends, that kind of thing. And increase or decrease in appetite, an increase or decrease fatigue.”

When parents are met with long waitlists, Harig has some advice.

“Trying to create a space for their teen, or their child to talk about what they’re struggling with,” she said.

Harig also recommends looking into telehealth and virtual therapy, as well as getting on those waitlists as sometimes they can move faster than expected.

About the Author:

Sydney joined the WSLS 10 News team in June 2021.