GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) — Mental health challenges among children and teenagers is a “national emergency”, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. (AAP-AACAP-CHA Declaration of a National Emergency in Child and Adolescent Mental Health).

As part of our “Ask the Expert” series, anchor Taylor Murray spoke with a psychiatrist about recognizing emotional distress or a mental health crisis in your child and how to get them help.

Amid the covid-19 pandemic, mental health challenges increased dramatically among young people.

“Multiple organizations have come out and said that, as well as many health systems like ourselves, are seeing just a huge influx of pediatric mental health cases,” Dr. Felkel said.

Doctor Carson Felkel, a psychiatrist, says there are various mental health conditions that can impact children and adolescents.

“there’s so many different issues that kids are facing right now…depression, anxiety, social anxieties, bipolar disorder and then the pandemic has also created or worsened new types of issues like kids being fearful of getting sick”

Dr. Felkel says it’s important to recognize the warning signs of emotional distress or a possible mental health condition.

“As a parent, it’s really important to know your child to know what is different about them. Are they sleeping excessively? Have their eating habits changed? Are they not interacting with you in the same way? You have to know your child,” Dr. Felkel said.

If you notice a change in behavior, like withdrawing or irritability, don’t ignore it. Start a conversation about it.

“It’s good to make sure that you have a relationship to build the conversation upon and that means just spending time with your kid or just playing with them or doing something on their terms to build the relationship. That way when you ask those questions, it doesn’t come off in the wrong way,” Dr. Felkel said.

Dr. Felkel strongly recommends therapy for any young person facing mental health challenges.

“Go ahead and make that appointment. There’s never the wrong time that’s why we are here. If the thought crosses your mind, do it,” Dr. Felkel said.

In some situations, therapy with a licensed professional can be lifesaving.

We know that suicide ideation and attempts are on the rise, around our country and pediatric population. So as a parent, please be vigilant during this time.”

If you feel that your child’s life is in danger, this is an emergency. You must take immediate action and call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

More Resources for Youth facing a Mental Health Crisis: Youth : Lifeline (suicidepreventionlifeline.org)