Early last year, as the coronavirus threat spread, a 9-year-old named Miles turned into a raging boy his parents did not recognize. The family pediatrician referred Miles to a therapist. His mom, Emily Johnson, says her son needed help right away, but the earliest appointment was one to two months away.
Three weeks after seeing the pediatrician, Miles was in a hospital emergency room. It would be the first of six trips to an ER over the next four months.
“It’s a nightmare to be asking for help and not be able to access the help,” says Johnson, who lives on Cape Cod. “It feels frightening, it feels isolating, and it feels devastating.”
Miles is stable now. But the predicament for many children seeking care is worse. At one Boston hospital, the wait for every type of mental health care is six to 12 months.
That’s not soon enough for children who can’t sleep, who say there’s no reason to get up in the morning, or who have stopped eating. So parents are putting their kids on multiple waiting lists. They’re paying cash rather than holding out for therapists who take their insurance. Many are becoming more anxious or depressed themselves.