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Study Finds Rising Rate of Mental Health Visits Among Youth to Emergency Departments

While the number of pediatric emergency department (ED) visits across the nation has remained stable over the last 10 years, visits for mental health disorders have risen 60% and the rate of visits for deliberate self-harm have increased 329%.

In a study published on May 11, 2020, in Pediatrics, Nationwide Children’s Hospital researchers looked at the number and reason for mental health-related ED visits. They also examined the geographic location of EDs and the overall number of children coming to each ED. Previous studies have shown that low pediatric volume EDs and EDs in rural settings are less prepared for all pediatric emergencies, and only one third of rural facilities have pediatric mental health policies or mental health transfer agreements.

Findings showed the highest jump in ED visits was among 15- to 17-year-olds (68% increase), and while the rate grew among both males and females, it was more pronounced in girls (74% increase). Additionally, visits for substance use disorders rose by 75%, with alcohol-related disorders decreasing by nearly 40% and substance use disorders significantly increasing (over 150%). The rate of visits for deliberate self-harm increased 329%.

“Examining the characteristics of EDs that children present to was important because outcomes have been shown to be directly linked to the volume and geographic location of the EDs,” said Charmaine Lo, Ph.D., MPH, the study’s lead author and senior research scientist in Emergency Medicine at Nationwide Children’s.

Further research is needed to identify solutions that will better equip all EDs with the tools, personnel and resources to better manage pediatric cases, particularly those related to mental health.

Study authors say telehealth services can also provide an avenue for increasing access to behavioral health specialists who can provide screening, assist with acute interventions, and support connections to continued care within the community, thereby avoiding long distance transfers, transportation costs and delays in care.

“The overall goal of our work is to improve preparedness of EDs for children,” said Dr. Stanley. “Large children’s hospitals with psychiatric providers can offer outreach services to these smaller EDs in the form of telehealth. Another solution is more training for emergency physicians and nurses so they know how to treat and triage children.”

Excerpted from “Study finds rising rate of mental health visits among youth to emergency departments” in Medical Express. Read the full article.

Source: Medical Express | Study finds rising rate of mental health visits among youth to emergency departments, https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-05-mental-health-youth-emergency-departments.html | © Medical Xpress 2011 – 2020

A screening can help you determine if you or someone you care about should contact a mental health professional. Care Managers can arrange a free 30 minute Care Consultation so you can explore options with an expert. Call or email our Care Managers at 650.688.3625 or careteam@chconline.org to set up an initial Consultation appointment.

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