Albuquerque pediatric doctor sees increase in teenage mental health patients

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An Albuquerque emergency department pediatric doctor said he’s seeing a crisis of mental health issues among teenagers.

"And from a mental health standpoint it is, it’s just enormous. I just can’t stress that enough," said Dr. Brian Moore.

Dr. Moore said he has seen an increase of kids in the emergency room experiencing physical symptoms related to their mental health.

"They’re coming for various physical ailments, chest pain, shortness of breath, stomach pain." Dr. Moore said. "And you just sit down and talk with them, and it’s really due to their social isolation."

Dr. Moore said the health risks of COVID for young healthy people are smaller than their risks of mental health related ailments.

"The survivability is 99.997%. I mean it’s infinitesimal," Dr. Moore said, "It’s real! I don’t want, again, I don’t want to have the message that we need to take this [pandemic] lightly. But, the mental health piece is far higher than that!"

Dr. Moore is also a team doctor for a local Albuquerque high school, and has a daughter who plays volleyball for Eldorado High School. After they assessed the risks, his family made a choice so his daughter could continue sports.

"We actually moved her with a family in Texas so she could play volleyball in Texas," Dr. Moore said.

When they thought high school sports was set to return to Albuquerque Public School, she came home.

"She really, really, really wanted to come home and play for her school. And we brought her back, and now we’re back in the same spot. Where we’re not looking, right now, at least for volleyball, because of the coupling of sports [and hybrid learning]," Dr. Moore said.

The Governor’s Office, however, said that if school districts can’t safely bring back students to the classroom, then New Mexicans have a right to question how they can safely coordinate school sports.

Dr. Moore said he thinks the benefits of bringing back sports and other school activities for young healthy kids would outweigh the risks.

"I can’t tell you how many more kids I’m seeing for these things—and these are healthy kids, these are well adjusted kids. Normally active kids," Dr. Moore said.