Atlanta support group focuses on spike in mental health emergency visits for children during pandemic

Children play with a therapist in the pediatric unit of the Robert Debre hospital, in Paris, France. In Georgia, a non-profit is working to address the increase in mental health emergency visits for children due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Christophe Ena / AP Photo

Lockdown, quarantine, isolation — they’re phrases we heard a lot at the start of 2020. And research from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that as the COVID-19 pandemic forced life as we know it to become more closed-off, children’s mental health suffered.

According to CDC research from November 2020, mental health-related emergency visits increased nationwide in mid-March of 2020. They continued into October with increases of 24% among children aged 5–11 years and 31% among those aged 12–17 years. Those numbers are compared with the same period in 2019.

But Heads Up for Harry is one local non-profit trying to keep kids from getting to that point.

Founded in 2018, the group works with local schools on how to talk openly about mental health. Spencer Mitchell is president of Heads Up For Harry — he joined WABE’s “All Things Considered” and started by talking about why the organization is named after his old college friend, Harrison.

Lily Oppenheimer contributed to this report.