PITTSBURGH—Before the coronavirus pandemic took hold, psychiatrist Garrett Sparks usually treated about a dozen patients on his overnight shift in the emergency department at Western Psychiatric Hospital, this city’s biggest mental-health hospital. On a recent Thursday evening, he saw 21 cases.
As the night began, an agitated man sitting on a couch in a space reserved for acute cases loudly demanded turkey sandwiches. Parents of a 7-year-old who had been kicked out of school for emotional outbursts came in, saying their child’s behavior was spiraling and he was becoming more aggressive. A few hours later, police brought in a 17-year-old boy who had tried to commit suicide by jumping from a bridge.
“It seems like everyone has been holding their breath for a year, and now, it’s just a total explosion of everything, both in terms of high volume but also the severity of cases,” Dr. Sparks said. “You see a lot more people who were, pre-pandemic, kind of overwhelmed and stressed, and now they have full-on anxiety disorders or depression.”
In the coronavirus pandemic, a wave of mental-health crises has grown into a tsunami, flooding an already taxed system of care. As the country appears to be emerging from the worst of the Covid-19 crisis, emergency departments say they are overwhelmed by patients who deferred or couldn’t access outpatient treatment, or whose symptoms intensified or went undiagnosed during the lockdowns.
As the U.S. emerges from the pandemic, mental-health providers say they are facing a wave of patients with urgent needs. “It seems like everyone has been holding their breath for a year, and now, it’s just a total explosion of everything.” https://t.co/fat36w5FXI
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) June 28, 2021