COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Across the country, more children are dying at their own hand and local doctors say the time to act is now.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital is set to open a new building dedicated to treating children with mental health issues, hoping to help central Ohio lead the way in change.

Experts say 15 percent of high schoolers have had thoughts of suicide and the number of deaths are on the rise. The new building plans to combat that. Doctors hope that it rolls the tide for other hospitals to invest in mental health.

RELATED: Signs your child might be struggling with a mental health issue

“Last year, we had over 5,500 kids come to Nationwide Children’s Hospital emergency room with a serious behavioral health condition,” said Chief of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Dr. David Axelson.

A 400 percent increase from 10 years ago — and an upward trend seen across the country, prompting Nationwide Children’s Hospital to open the Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion.

RELATED: Video: Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion features

“Central Ohio is on the cutting edge of really trying to address this pediatric mental health crisis,” Axelson said.

In this building, children will find hope for suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and depression. There will also be areas dedicated to autism and neurodevelopment disorders.

While it’s not a long term stay facility, some children will be kept overnight or for a few days until doctors decide where they go next for treatment.

The sooner doctors intervene, the better.

RELATED: How to start a conversation with your child about mental health

“We know that half of all mental health conditions start before the age of 14 and 75 percent start before the age of 24,” Axelson said.

He added that when a child struggles with mental health, it impacts their development, and a misunderstood child becomes a misunderstood adult.

Diagnosing a problem is difficult. There is no blood test or brain scan.

With pressures for achievement and social media, the cause can be just as complicated.

“We do know tragically that the rate of death by suicide has increased dramatically over the past 10 years in kids ages 10 to 19,” Axelson said. “It’s now the second leading cause of death.”

What is clear is the need for help, and doctors hope this pavilion can pave the way for the nation.

“We’re having colleagues at other children’s hospitals and other systems saying what we need to start investing in this, so we’re looking for this to be a model to sort of stimulate building in a more thoughtful comprehensive system to address mental health and behavior health in kids,” Axelson said.

If you are interested in visiting the Big Lots Pavilion for Behavioral Health, there is an open house this Sunday, March 1 from 11am to 3pm. You can learn more and RVSP here.


If someone you care about is in an emergency, life-threatening situation, call 9-1-1 or go to an emergency department. For crisis situations that are not life-threatening, please call your county’s psychiatric crisis line number. In Franklin County, call (614) 722-1800 for youth and adolescents 17 and under. Ages 18 and older should call (614) 276-2273. If someone you care about is having thoughts of suicide or needs to talk, encourage them to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you prefer to text, you can text “START” to 741-741 where a live, trained specialist will respond back to you.

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This content, in partnership with NBC4, is sponsored by Nationwide Children’s Hospital