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Psychiatric Emergency Department Visits are Increasing for Children and Young Adults Across the US

3/18/2019

A study in the April 2019 issue of Pediatrics shows that there has been a significant increase in psychiatric emergency department visits for children and young adults. The study, “Trends in Psychiatric Emergency Department Visits Among Youth and Young Adults in the US,” (published online March 18) looked at emergency department visits between 2011 and 2015. The researchers found that overall psychiatric visits have increased 28 percent among children and young adults, ages 6 to 24 years of age, during that time. The largest increases occurred among teens, young adults and non-white youths. Among adolescents, a very large increase in suicide-related visits, almost 2.5 times greater in 2015 compared to 2011, was found. Visits to the emergency department for mental health reasons were extremely long, more than half were 3 hours or longer. Despite the length of these visits, only 16 percent of patients saw a mental health specialist. When the visits were for suicide or self-harm, only 36 percent saw a mental health professional. The authors state the lack of mental health providers in the emergency department reflect missed opportunities for treatment planning. Study authors believe the findings reflect the need for greater staff with mental health experience in emergency departments and greater research into alternative evaluation and treatment models for acute care outside of the emergency department.

Editor’s note: A related commentary, “The Increasing Burden of Psychiatric Emergencies: A Call to Action” will also be published inthis issue of Pediatrics

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds