Ohio health leaders address rising youth suicide attempts blamed on COVID-19


COLUMBUS, Ohio (WJW) – The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) held a press conference Thursday to address COVID-19 and youth behavioral health.

ODH Director Bruce Vanderhoff, MD, MBA, was joined by Joseph Gastaldo, MD, Medical Director of Infectious Diseases from OhioHealth and Mary Beth DeWitt, PhD., Chief of Child Psychology at Dayton Children’s Hospital.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Association recently declared a national emergency in mental health.

Doctors say there is a significant rise in emergency room visits for mental-health-related emergencies.

“Children’s mental health is suffering. Young people have endured so much throughout this pandemic and while much of the attention is often placed on its physical health consequences, we cannot overlook the escalating mental health crisis facing our patients,” said AAP President Lee Savio Beers, MD, FAAP. 

According to AAP, between March and October 2020, the percentage of emergency department visits for children with mental health emergencies rose by 24 percent for children ages 5-11 and 31 percent for children ages 12-17. 

There was also a more than 50 percent increase in suspected suicide attempt emergency department visits among girls ages 12-17 in early 2021 as compared to the same period in 2019.  

“We are caring for young people with soaring rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness, and suicidality that will have lasting impacts on them, their families, their communities, and all of our futures,” said AACAP President, Gabrielle A. Carlson, MD.  

Additionally, many young people have been impacted by the loss of a loved one. Data shows more than 140,000 U.S. children have experienced the death of a primary or secondary caregiver during the COVID-19 pandemic.


  • Rising COVID-19 cases in all age groups – Dr. Vanderhoff
  • More than 6300 cases reported Wednesday
  • “More people are getting sick, and more are being hospitalized.” – Dr. Vanderhoff
  • 2868 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ohio (16% increase in 7 days)
  • 810 people are in ICU with COVID-19 in Ohio (18% increase in 7 days)

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