Archive for July, 2021

As the Pandemic Wanes, Our Youth Cry Out for Help

July 28th, 2021

Western PA Guide to Good Health Summer Edition
Suicide, Social Media Addiction, Mental Health Issues Result of Covid Isolation and Stress
By Nick Jacobs
As we as a society examine the negative impact of the past 15-plus months, one group that needs specific atten- tion is our young people.
A recent article in Becker’s Hospital Review helped sound the alarm as hospitals are inundated with kids attempting suicide. As stated by Jena Hausmann, CEO of Children’s Hospital Aurora, Colorado, her pediatric emergency and inpatient units are being “overrun with kids attempting sui- cide and suffering from other forms of major mental health illness.”
If that’s not a societal and cultural statement, nothing ever will be. The article went on to explain there has been an increase of 90 percent in the demand for behavioral health treatment.
The combination of isolation and stress from the COVID pandemic has contributed to this phenomenon and turned what would have been low- level anxiety and depression into suicide attempts. The chief medical offi- cer of this Aurora-based Children’s Hospital went on to explain that the top reason for emergency room visits over the past several weeks has been sui- cide attempts. He went on to explain, “The kids have run out of resilience – their tanks are empty.”
One of my long-time physician friends, Dr. Scott Shannon, a pediatric psychiatrist from Colorado, says, “We need to take action. Physical inac- tivity, deteriorating diet, lack of adequate sleep, and fraying of family rela- tionships are similar threats pounding our kids. This has been a long train coming.
“We tend to ignore the issues of children and women in our culture and this is an example of that and what denial and avoidance brings when a syn- ergistic crisis arrives to stress an unprepared, poorly funded and non-func-
tional system.”
Nor is this challenge limited to Colorado.
Not long after my contact with Dr. Shannon, another close friend and
pediatrician, Dr. Matt Masiello, called me from Massachusetts where he said the challenges are similarly alarming. He indicated that young patients are sometimes kept in holding situations for days at a time before they can find psychiatric beds.
I then spoke with a local administrator from Southwestern PA and was informed they are seeing a situation that is also approaching the emergency level with the primary challenge of finding appropriate facilities and pro- fessionals to help these kids.
We have all become critically aware of the challenges this pandemic has created when it comes to the lack of socialization, required home school- ing, and the loss of significant activities such as dances, sporting events, and recognition and celebratory ceremonies. Besides that, if you’re a teenager challenged by living with parents who are insensitive, abusive, or just stressed from attempting to deal with the pressures of working all day from home, the level of isolation experienced can be overwhelming.
Beyond these first, most obvious causes feeding this wildfire of psychi- atric challenges among our young people, can we point a finger at anything else? Maybe we should look at the addictive nature of social media as another potential contributor.
To quote a friend and Ph.D. Psychologist Gregory Rys, “Media is now deliberately designed to be addictive. Especially since we have entered the age of instant feedback via phone, table, PC, internet, and cable TV.
“Marketers are deliberately using principles of neuroeconomics and learning theory to economic decision making and consumerism at a macro and micro level. Social media platforms know how to effectively utilize these principles for advertising.
“Once you have someone addicted to a device and platform you can shape their emotional state and influence their behavior. There is a newly emerging disorder that psychologists are treating. It is called Social Media Addiction, and just like other addictions, you can use the addiction to weaponize its users. And it occurs on a daily basis: to suppress facts or to invent them. And the addicts will believe what they are told as long as the drug keeps being delivered.
“The ironic thing is, most of us don’t believe these principles apply to us, just other more gullible people. That is exactly where the architects of social media drugs want us.”
Of course, you don’t have to be a physician, a scientist, or a behavioral health professional to realize we are in a time of significant turmoil where the primary societal infrastructure has been significantly disrupted, and it is time for serious change. Otherwise, we risk losing a whole generation to the residue impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If that happens, we effectively can say goodbye to any chance we have of ever returning to “normal” – whatever that is.
> Nick Jacobs is a partner with SMR, LLC, a senior leadership healthcare consulting firm. He was a founding member of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine, former board member of the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine. A former hospital CEO and founder of two
genetic research institutes, Jacobs maintains a website,


July 5th, 2021

Crying Out for Help

By Nick Jacobs

Let me begin with a caveat. In this article there will be a proposed “beginning of a solution” that you’re going to read about but it is not in place yet. This article is a solicitation to help our elected officials know how much and why we need their support to make this happen.  We need everyone to help make it a reality.

Many of us have been touched by the challenges presented from the COVID-19 epidemic, but it has wreaked special havoc on those with behavioral health challenges. Jena Hausmann, CEO of Children’s Hospital Aurora, Colorado, said in a recent article in Becker’s Hospital Review that her pediatric emergency and inpatient units are being “overrun with kids attempting suicide and suffering from other forms of major mental health illness.”There has been an increase of 90 percent in demand for behavioral health treatment.

Because of stress, isolation, and family challenges what might have been low-level anxiety and depression has become suicide attempts. When a poor diet, inactivity, lack of sleep, and challenging family relationships enter the picture, life can become too much to handle.

There are no easy fixes for this, but we are backing an opportunity to at least begin to address the issues before they become more serious.

In the United States, we depend on the police to respond to mental health emergencies. This requires an enormous amount of resources and can often result in a negative outcome for the victim and for the police.  For example, in 2017, over 20% of police staff time was consumed responding to individuals with mental illness. The most disconcerting statistic is that people with mental illness that has not been treated are over 15 times more likely to be killed during police encounters with other citizens.

In 2020, Congress passed legislation that would create an easily remembered phone number that can be used for a mental health emergency, a three-digit mental health crisis line, 988 which is an easily remembered alternative number to 911. The problem is one that we are all too familiar with, funding.  Every State needs to pass the necessary legislation to help ensure that a fully-funded crisis response system supporting 988 will be in place and operable.

This system would include call centers available 24/7, mobile response teams, and crisis stabilization services that connect patients to care.

The actual system will become available nationwide by July 2022, but this system will not be functional in Pennsylvania without your help. Advocates like you are needed to call or write your representatives to encourage them to enact this supportive legislation. It can’t and won’t happen without you.

Highlands Hospital is a well-recognized center for behavioral health treatment, but this effort to put a functional State-wide system in place takes more than the encouragement of one healthcare organization.  It takes you, the public, to let your elected representatives know how important connectivity to 988 could be for you and your family, your friends, and your friends friends.

This is about saving lives, preventing broken hearts, and helping not only our caregivers but also our police. Please reach out to your elected official and ask them to support 988.

Nick Jacobs is a partner with Senior Management Resources, LLC, a senior leadership healthcare consulting firm. He is a co-founder of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine, former board member of the Integrative Health Policy Consortium. He was a former hospital CEO, founder of two genetic research institutes, and a Trustee at Southern California University of Health Sciences.