Fort Worth

Cook Children's Starts ‘JOY' Campaign to Explore Pandemic Impact on Kids

The JOY campaign is meant to arm parents with information about how they can help their children cope with mental health issues

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Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth set an alarming record in March.

"Last month we had the highest number of children brought into our emergency room for suicidal attempts," Cook Children's psychologist Dr. Lisa Elliott, Ph.D said. "I don't think we ever once considered what this pandemic and the isolation of this pandemic would result in."

In March, 43 patients were admitted to Cook Children's Medical Center after attempting suicide; double the number from that time a year ago. Last year, the hospital recorded a record seven deaths by suicide, making it the hospital's leading cause of traumatic death.

"It doesn't have to be like this," Elliott said, pointing out she's seen a marked increase the past year in the number of patients with prolonged, severe mental health issues. "We've got to be able to help teach our children resiliency and emotional intelligence."

The hospital is starting a JOY campaign to help parents spot the warning signs and help their children cope with mental health issues.

"We need to get this information out," Elliott said, pointing out there aren't enough certified/qualified mental health professionals in the workforce to handle the demand. She says parents can play a key role. "Sharing how they, as parents, have been through hard times in their life and there is an end to it, and there's things that we can do to give ourselves hope and give ourselves joy."

18-year-old Carson Roberts is Elliott's patient. He started having mental health issues after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was 14-years-old.

"A lot of depression, anxiety, things like that just dealing with my illness," Roberts said. He said the pandemic heightened those feelings. "Just made me feel trapped."

Roberts said his parents noticed he needed help.

"It really does make everything better, put everything out, not hold everything in," Roberts said. "Because when you do hold everything in, it all comes out at once and it gets worse."

Elliott said parents should look for changes: a lack of sleep, drop in grades, increased isolation, and decreased socialization.

"We need to give our kids hope," Elliott said.

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