According to local police departments and mental health providers, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a significant increase in calls among minors regarding anxiety, depression and even attempted suicide.

Individuals experiencing severe mental health emergencies are typically transported to Behavioral Health Services at Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough and Monadnock Family Services in Keene for an evaluation. According to Associate Director of Children’s Services Annelies Spykman, Monadnock Family Services saw a 22 percent increase in juvenile intake this year compared to 2021. Spykman said the pandemic is the leading cause of mental health emergencies in minors.

“We’re seeing a lot of high-achieving kids have anxiety and have a hard time getting back to normal,” she said. “A lot of it has to do with isolation and social media.”

Local police departments, including Rindge, Greenfield and Francestown, are responding to an increase in juvenile mental health emergencies.

According to Rindge Police Chief Rachel Malynowski, officers learn to assist and manage mental health emergencies during their training. She said making face-to-face contact, deep listening and directing the distressed individual off the road are just a few techniques first responders use to take control of mental health emergencies and ensure the safety of others. According to the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council, police officers are required to complete eight hours of ongoing training to maintain their certification each year, including de-escalation strategies, ethics and implicit bias.

Despite the additional training, Malynowski said the most serious mental health calls require outside help from EMS and local mental health experts.

“We pride ourselves on our de-escalation techniques,” Malynowski said. “But when you have a mental health crisis that reaches a high level, we immediately recognize that this is beyond our training.”

Pursuant to RSA 135-C:27 by the Judicial Branch of the State of New Hampshire, a person is entitled to emergency involuntary admission to a mental health facility if they present a danger to themselves or others by threatening or committing self-harm within 40 days. of completing the petition.

Francestown Police Chief Fred Douglas said mental health experts are not properly treating juveniles who experience mental health emergencies.

“From my perspective, there are some facilities that don’t have the capability to handle these situations,” Douglas said.

Francestown Police recently responded to a serious mental health emergency regarding a juvenile threatening to kill himself using a noose tied to a tree house. The juvenile was evaluated by a local mental health facility and released an hour later.

On August 9th, Patrolman Joey Sweeney and Peterborough Police K9 Queso responded to a juvenile experiencing a mental health emergency who ran away from their residence and ran into the woods. It took five local departments to find the juvenile, including the New Ipswich Police Department, the Mason Police Department, the Temple/Greenville Police Department and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. The youth was transported to Monadnock Community Hospital for an evaluation and released the same day, according to New Ipswich police.

Douglas said mental health professionals should conduct more in-depth assessments for the sake of the individual and their families.

“You don’t have someone who is going to attempt suicide and just be treated for an hour and be released,” he said. “There is definitely a failure among mental health institutions.”

According to Spykman, local care facilities like Monadnock Family Services are dealing with staff shortages amid an increase in juvenile emergencies in Cheshire and Hillsborough counties. In some cases, suicidal children as young as 8 or 9 are being treated in local facilities.

Spykman said local care facilities are struggling to keep up with the high demand for mental health treatment for children of all ages.

“Every single facility is understaffed,” Spykman said. “It’s not that we don’t care; we want to do our best. But we’re seeing a higher level of burnout among our staff, people who are coming to us with higher intensity needs.”

To combat staff shortages, Monadnock Family Services offers group sessions for individuals dealing with mental health emergencies.

Douglas said the increase in juvenile mental health emergencies takes a heavy toll on the individual, their families and first responders.

“I’ve been in law enforcement for 45 years, I’ve seen it all. The pandemic has caused a surge in mental health calls across the country. If we get these types of calls, the bigger agencies should be inundated with it,” Douglas said.

For information on local mental health resources, visit For people experiencing a mental health emergency, call 988 for the national 24-hour suicide hotline.

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