CHC in the Press: ‘Mental Health Doesn’t Go Away Over the Summer:’ Local Organizations See Spike in Demand for Services
Sarah Pistorino saw a therapist through the end of her freshman year at Sacred Heart Preparatory School. Then summer came — and with it, the end of her academic stress and fatigue — so she pressed the pause button on her therapy. But when school started up again in the fall, she felt a decline in her mental health. She now continues therapy through the summer months.
“When there is no stress about school, it allows me to talk about other things going on in my life,” she said. “When you remove (school) from the equation, it allows you to talk about some of the deeper issues and more personal things going on.”
Pistorino’s experience is not uncommon and illustrates the need to continue mental health care during the summer, providers say.
Children’s Health Council (CHC) in Palo Alto typically sees a 30% to 40% dip in demand for services over the summer. This summer, though, demand is down only by about 20%.
“Mental health doesn’t go away over the summer,” said Ramsey Khasho, Chief Clinical Officer at Children’s Health Council.
“People are really realizing — and what we tell parents — is summer is a really good time to actually continue the treatment because there’s less stress and distraction. They can focus on getting better and building coping strategies that they can use during the school year when stress levels go up.”
It also provides more consistency for therapists who otherwise have to make up for lost time when teen patients stop therapy over the summer and then return in the fall — often when they’re having some sort of crisis, Khasho said.
While CHC encourages families to take summer vacations, “It’s all about building the skills when people are relatively well,” he said.
For youth mental health organizations, summer is also a time to lay the groundwork for the coming school year. They are all trying to hire more therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists to build capacity — a challenge given a national shortage in mental health providers and the Bay Area’s high cost of living, they said.
“The demand continues to knock on the door and we continue to hire to meet the demand,” Khasho said.