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Children's Health sees increase in mental health patients, creates new rooms to address the crisis

More than 2,100 children were evaluated at Children's Health Dallas and Plano for suicidal thoughts or behaviors in the last year.

DALLAS — Pediatric emergency room visits for mental health conditions have increased since the COVID-19 pandemic started. At Children's Health, more than 2,100 children were evaluated at the Dallas and Plano locations for suicidal thoughts or behaviors in the last year.

Geneva Burnap, senior director of Children's Emergency Services at Children's Health Dallas, said, "It will be a while before we truly understand all the repercussions from COVID." 

The hospital launched a new tool to help address the concerns. In the emergency department, a few rooms were upgraded with projectors, touch screens and other technology.

It allows the patients to personalize and control their surroundings with calming themes. Some of the themes include starry nights, meadows, sandy beaches, and adventures with astronauts. Each theme has a song or sound that plays as well.

Patients can also draw on the touch screens as a way to express their emotions. Also, if they are angry, games like whack-a-mole are available. 

A four-wall hospital room is transformed into a room of adventure. All the hospital equipment is locked away behind a sliding door. 

The hope is this innovative technology will lead to a decrease in medications and narcotics that are used to help children calm down.

Dr. Kenneth Yen, an attending physician in the emergency department at Children's Health Dallas, has seen far too many patients who needed help sooner. 

"Is it just a typical moody teenager, or is it something more serious?" asked Yen.

He urges parents to pay attention to the most subtle signs of change in their children.

For more information on signs of depression and suicidal thoughts, click here.