NPR: Pandemic has worsened US child mental health crisis


January 18, 2021

A bag of Doritos, that’s all Princess wanted.

Her mom calls her Princess, but her real name is Lindsey. She’s 17 and lives with her mom, Sandra, a nurse, outside of Atlanta. On May 17, 2020, a Sunday, Lindsey decided she didn’t want breakfast; she wanted Doritos. So she left home and walked to Family Dollar, taking her pants off on the way, while her mom followed on the phone with police.

Lindsey has autism (NPR isn’t using last names to protect her privacy). It can be hard for her to communicate and navigate social situations. She thrives on routine, and gets special help at school. Or got help, before the coronavirus pandemic closed schools and forced tens of millions of children home. Sandra says that’s when their living hell started.

“It’s like her brain was wired,” she says. “She’d just put on her jacket, and she’s out the door. And I’m chasing her.”

On May 17, Sandra chased her all the way to Family Dollar. Hours later, Lindsey was in jail.

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