Child overdose cases spike at local emergency room

Posted at 5:10 PM, Oct 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-15 19:54:03-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — An uptick in young overdose patients are showing up at a local emergency room.

Dr. Meg Benningfield is the division director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She said it’s an alarming trend at the emergency room at Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital. "We’ve seen an increase in the number of suicide attempts by overdose in the emergency department.”

Dr. Benningfield said parents need to talk to their kids about how they're feeling, "And asking kids whether they’ve ever felt so down that they wanted to just disappear, or they just wanted to go to sleep and not wake up, those are good entry questions to ask."

Taking time to have that conversation opens the door to getting children help who need it. "It actually will decrease the risk because it will alert us to the severity of the problem," Dr. Benningfield said.

She said this is affecting children as young as 9-years-old. "So when kids have distress, we really recommend that parents do a safety sweep of the whole home, and think about collecting any kind of medications that kids could take and overdose," Dr. Benningfield said.

Dr. Bennington said teenagers are struggling during the pandemic, because in some cases, their worlds have been turned upside down. In sessions teenagers are reporting that they're anxious about academics, getting into college, and sports that have been impacted by COVID-19.

"So as the pandemic impacts the ability of teens to gather together, that’s an important outlet that teens have, and as those resources are limited, that’s a huge impact for kids," Dr. Bennington said.

Self harm is an indicator of a mental health crisis in children, and suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people. Dr. Bennington recommends removing weapons from the home, as well as any objects that can be used to cause injury.