More Colorado teens and children visiting ERs for mental health reasons

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DENVER - A quarter of all mental health emergency room visits in Colorado are now made by children younger than 18, according to a new study.

According to the study by  The Center for Improving Value in Health Care - the visits are mostly for major depressive disorder, along with anxiety and panic disorders.

"(It's) not surprising to me that there is a demand for care," said Vincent Atchity, President and CEO of Mental Health Colorado. "That’s in keeping with the overall sense of crisis that we have around mental health around Colorado."

According to United Health Foundation, Colorado now has the sixth highest child suicide rate in the country and like many other states, a lack of mental health resources.

"We have been trained pretty well as a community that we should have a primary care provider, with whom we have a relationship and that should be our first call when we’ve got a health distress," Atchity said. "But that has not been carefully tied to also being there for your mental health needs. It should be."

Atchity said emergency rooms deal with the immediate issues, but not long-term care or the stigma that's often associate with mental illness.

"It’s seen as, if you’re asking for help, you’re not strong enough and equipped enough to continue on. And that’s a stigma that needs to be gotten rid of, because everybody needs help at one point," said Andrea Macias, a Denver University student who's a part of Students for Education Reform.

Macias and SFER are now pushing for all schools, especially Denver Public Schools, to have a mental health counselor on campus.

They hope that person can addresses mental health issues before they become an emergency.

Meanwhile, some hospitals are addressing the mental health crisis in other ways.

UCHealth recently committed more than $100 million for behavioral health care.

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