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CHICAGO — A recent study in Illinois found that nearly 20 percent of kids have a mental health problem. And with the pandemic, doctors say the problem has only grown.

Dr. John Walkup is the Chair of the Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Lurie Children’s Hospital. He said the pandemic has had a huge impact on children.

“While we have a COVID-19 pandemic, we also have a mental health pandemic,” he said.

The loss of peer contact and social interaction in school, the loss of a relative, or a financial strain due to a parent losing a job. Dr. Walkup said they all can take a toll on children.

“We are busier than we have ever, ever been, from a mental health point of view,” Dr. Walkup said. “We are seeing more kids, more kids in deeper trouble than they usually are, because of this group of kids who are untreated and unrecognized, plus they have this additional burden of a huge change in their environment.”

Dr. Walkup said if loved ones are concerned about a child’s mental health, there are signs to look out for.

“Anxiety presents with fear, worry, physical symptoms like stomach aches and problem falling asleep. And major depression is a marked change in mood and demeanor and the inability to experience pleasure.”

Dr. Walkup is hopeful that with help and once the effects of the pandemic subside, children will recover.

“Kids will never forget that they went through this, but there’s a really good chance that the vast majority of kids will come out of this doing just fine,” he said.

If you’re concerned about a child’s mental health, Dr. Walkup said the first step would be to contact your child’s pediatrician for help and options.

The number for the National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.