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Number of teenagers seeking psychiatric help soars amid pandemic

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Hospitals are seeing an increase in the number of teenagers admitted for mental disorders
Hospitals are seeing an increase in the number of teenagers admitted for mental disorders   -   Copyright  JOEL SAGET/AFP
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Psychiatric services for teenagers are completely overloaded due to pandemic restrictions, according to a member of the French Scientific Council.

Angèle Consoli, who sits on the country's independent body and is also a child psychiatrist at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris, says that hospitalisations of under-15s have gone up by 80 per cent in France since the COVID-19 crisis began.

And the trend is the same in Belgium.

According to Professor Marie Delhaye, head of the infant and juvenile department at the Erasmus Hospital in Brussels, consultation requests have tripled since September last year.

She also said that waiting lists are now stabilising, but that still means some patients have to wait three months for an appointment.

The calls for help are primarily related to anxiety and helplessness, but there are also more serious issues that healthcare workers have to deal with.

"The second group includes real problems of eating disorders, like anorexia," Delhaye told Euronews.

"We have young people who have lost 20kg and whose parents didn't realise it. The third group is more related to serious depression or even psychosis, with some having a feeling of persecution or paranoia."

To meet these demands, working methods are being modified, with shorter but more intense hospitalisations being implemented.

Euronews spoke to 17-year-old Arthur Kesteloot.

He's suffered from an attention disorder for two years now, but with more than a year of pandemic restrictions, he's dropped out of school, finding it impossible to attend.

"I keep pressing snooze on my alarm clock, setting it again in ten minutes and then ten minutes later I set it again and in the end, I never wake up," Kesteloot told Euronews.

"The rest is more complicated, going to school, staying there and thinking that I'm still here for three hours and I have to stay like that in my seat, waiting for the day to end because in the end that's basically what I do. It's when I'm at school, I wait for the end of classes so I can do what I want to do. So it's enough for anyone to say to me: come on, let's skip school and yes, I'm going to skip it because I don't feel like going to school anymore."

This situation and the difficulties he faces have an impact on his mood too, something he says is difficult to control.

"I can't find the motivation to do anything anymore. So it clearly affects my mood because you can see when I don't want to do something. And, as a result, I'm in a bad mood. I'm very often more irritable."

Arthur says that he is confident of his ability to bounce back though, but health services are now looking beyond the pandemic.

The same young people affected by confinement are likely to suffer other economic or psychological consequences as a result of the post-COVID crisis that will follow, with the risk of youngsters developing other disorders in the future.