A La Jolla group will present a pickleball tournament to support pediatric mental health services

To raise funds for expanded pediatric psychiatric services at Rady Children’s Hospital, the La Jolla Unit of the Hospital Auxiliary will present a pickleball tournament called “Dinking for Dollars” on Saturday, October 15th.

The event will be from 5 to 8:30 p.m. at Bobby Riggs Racket & Paddle, 875 Santa Fe Drive, Encinitas.

It will feature tournament-style play and clinics for kids 12 and older and adults, plus food and entertainment. Registration ranges from a $20 spectator level to a $150 gold level, which includes access to a tournament or clinic, raffle tickets and a gift bag with a visor, towel, water bottle and more.

Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines tennis, ping pong and badminton.

La Jolla resident Pilar Cardenas, a marriage and family therapist, said the Rady La Jolla Children’s Hospital Auxiliary is dedicated to providing mental health services for young people because “you can’t have health without mental health.”

The Auxiliary started seven years ago to support mental health services at Rady Children’s and helped open the first dedicated pediatric psychiatric emergency department in 2020.

“It’s a stand-alone facility that’s not part of the main emergency room that everyone goes through,” Cardenas said. “Children going through psychiatric crises need [that] because it is best to be in a quiet, peaceful environment.

But with growing demand, the facility has outgrown its space. Plans are underway to expand the offerings to accommodate more patients both in terms of space and services provided.

“While it’s extremely important to reach young people through schools and pediatricians’ offices before things become a bigger fire, the reality is that kids are showing up in their teens in huge numbers for the first time with emergency care at Rady Children’s,” Cardenas said. “The important thing is not only that they are seen in crisis, but that they are followed up and given comprehensive services when they leave, such as a social worker assigned to the case.” … We all want to protect children and this is such a huge way that we can ensure their future success by catching them early and responding in a comprehensive way so that they have a place to turn and the skills and resources so that this no more problems extend.

Over the past five years, the number of psychiatric visits to Radi has increased from 250 a year to 250 a month, Cardenas said. Between July 2021 and June of this year, Rady Children’s saw 4,479 pediatric patients who experienced behavioral health crises. Of these, 32 percent were transferred to the psychiatric emergency department.

“The numbers are alarming,” Cardenas said. “It’s really scary.”

While no one knows for sure what’s causing the spike, some believe that young people are experiencing an increased impact of social media.

“These kids think that everyone lives better than them [others] are more beautiful or more popular,” Cardenas said. “They count likes or get upset by negative responses [to posts]. There is an increased sensitivity to criticism and they are exposed to it now [through social media].”

The COVID-19 pandemic, she added, “hit the kids the hardest” because they were taken out of the social environment of school. “That socialization is huge for emotional and social maturity. And they were deprived of it. They also lost the structure of school and being around their parents and the stressors that parents have. I saw a huge impact from it.”

Although the need is growing, Cardenas said she is confident it can be met.

“It will require cooperation,” she said. “When we start thinking about mental health as a community problem, we start thinking of them as us. Our investment in our most vulnerable children will enable them to thrive and in turn positively impact society on many levels.”

To learn more about Rady Children’s Hospital Auxiliary La Jolla and its pickleball tournament, visit rchalajolla.com.

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