Rochester pediatrician sees mental health toll on kids
By Kimberly Haas
A pediatrician who practices in Rochester says he is seeing the effects of the pandemic’s past 14 months on children.
Dr. Walter Hoerman, who works as part of Greater Seacoast Community Health, said children of all ages are suffering.
“Between the loss of their normal activities, the loss of peer contact, the increase in screen time, the loss of sports, the loss of clubs, we’re seeing a lot of mental health effects,” Hoerman said.
Even with summer coming, Hoerman said parents should be open to talking with their children about mental health and reaching out to the resources that are available in their local area, including pediatricians.
Hoerman said pediatricians can see children fairly quickly, while there is a backlog for mental health providers.
Hoerman has some advice for parents who think their child might need some help.
“You acknowledge the losses they’ve had and how tough it’s been,” Hoerman said.
In the month of February, there were over 50 children awaiting psychiatric hospitalization in New Hampshire.
Gov. Chris Sununu signed an executive order that all schools must return to in-person learning at least two days a week starting by March 8 on Feb. 19. He said during his weekly press briefing that week that returning to school would put more eyes on kids.
During his weekly press briefing on May 13, Sununu said he would be issuing an executive order to address the mental health issues being seen statewide for people of all ages.
Sununu said despite all of the progress that has been made during his administration, 2020, “was a perfect storm that really kind of pulled us back a little bit to where we were.”
“And today, unfortunately, we are back in a position in just a year where we do have a few dozen people waiting for mental health services. They’re waiting in emergency rooms,” Sununu said.
Sununu referenced the New Hampshire Supreme Court’s ruling that the state had violated due process rights of people in a mental health crisis as they await treatment, and said instead of dismissing or fighting the ruling, “we are absolutely embracing it.”
“There’s an urgent need for the state to accelerate its work in increasing the number of available beds for emergency psychiatric patients,” Sununu said.
Sununu explained that he would be signing an executive order allowing Commissioner Lori Shibinette and officials at the NH Department of Health and Human Services to tackle the problem.
Patrick Ho, who is the immediate past president of the New Hampshire Psychiatric Society, is one of the people who spoke up when people working in the mental health field started to see the numbers of kids waiting for beds increase.
Ho said during a recent interview that he is pleased with the emergency order Sununu put in place.
“In general, I would say that I am very pleased to see that this executive order has been filed and submitted. I think generally this is such a great and important step to have taken to really kind of prioritize mental health care,” Ho said.
Ho said New Hampshire tends to focus on the higher level of care by making sure beds are available for those going through a crisis, but it is important that preventative resources are supported.
“These are very important resources that really function to keep people out of the hospital,” Ho said.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
Contact Managing News Editor Kimberley Haas at Kimberley.Haas@townsquaremedia.com.