La Jolla Group to Present Pickleball Tournament to Support Pediatric Mental Health Services

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

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

It will offer tournament-style games and clinics for children ages 12 and up and adults, as well as food and entertainment. Registration ranges from the $20 spectator level to the $150 Gold level, which includes admission to the 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, table tennis and badminton.

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

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

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

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

“While it is extremely important to reach young people through schools and pediatric practices before things get worse, the reality is that children are showing up in large numbers as teenagers for the first times with an emergency at Rady Children’s,” Cardenas said. “What is important is not only that they are seen in a crisis situation, but that they are monitored and benefit from additional services when they leave, such as a social worker assigned to the file. … We all want to protect children, and this is such an important way to ensure their future success, to catch them early and respond holistically so they have a place to turn, skills and resources so that this does not prolong more problems.

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

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

Although no one knows for sure what is causing this spike, some believe that young people are experiencing an increased impact from social media.

“These children think that everyone has a better life than them, that [others] are prettier or more popular,” Cardenas said. “They count the number of likes or get angry at negative replies [to posts]. There’s a heightened sensitivity to criticism, and they’re exposing themselves to it now [through social media].”

The COVID-19 pandemic, she added, “hit children the hardest” because they have been removed from the social setting of school. “That socialization is huge for emotional maturity and social maturity. And they were stripped of it. They also lost the structure of school and were surrounded by their parents and the stressors that parents have. I saw a huge impact from that.

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

“It’s going to take collaboration,” she said. “When we start to think of mental health as a community issue, we start to think of them as us. Our investment in our most vulnerable children will allow them to thrive and, in turn, will have a positive impact on 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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