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UW Health experiencing startling number of pediatric suicide-related emergency visits


MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – UW Health is seeing a dramatic increase in pediatric suicide-related emergency visits.

The number of visits has seen a significant jump since 2020. Ten years ago, UW Health said its pediatric emergency department saw about 15 patients per month who required psychiatric care. But by 2022, that number jumped to more than 40 per month.

UW Health Pediatric Behavioral Health Specialist Shanda Wells suspects what is happening around here may be part of a national trend, with high rates of teens, including younger teens, attempting suicide, saying “we are not an exception to the national trend that’s for sure.”

“Unfortunately, the last year has been record breaking in not a great way in the sense that we’ve seen more and more younger children coming in with these types of concerns,” Shanda Wells, a Pediatric Behavioral Health Specialist at UW Health, said.

Wells said she thinks part of the increase correlates with the pandemic. But the other factor could be socio-economic issues.

“In our community, I would probably appoint to some more risk factors,” she continued. “We have more and more teens of color and teens who are open and sharing that they’re part of the LGBTQ+ community and we know that folks from both of those groups are at a higher risk for attempting suicide or at a higher risk for depression and anxiety.”

Similar trends are being reported across the country as well. “We are not an exception to the national trend that’s for sure,” Wells said.

Help is available 24/7 by texting or calling the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. The Trevor Project is also a 24/7 resource for young LGBTQ individuals.

Dane County Crisis Line is a local resource that can be utilized. The 24-hour mental health crisis line can be reached at (608) 280-2600.

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