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Lisa Black

Over a 10-year period, the percentage of children who showed up in hospital emergency rooms for mental health disorders rose by 60% and visits for self-harm increased by 329%, according to a study published in the June 2020 Pediatrics. The study, “Children’s Mental Health Emergency Department Visits – 2007-2016” (published online May 11), sought to analyze the pediatric volume and location of emergency departments serving children with mental health disorders. Prior research has shown that EDs Iocated in rural areas and those with low pediatric volumes are significantly less prepared to treat children with mental health disorders. Researchers analyzed data for children ages 5-17 from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample Databases. While the total number of children’s emergency room visits remained stable over ten years, the visits for mental health disorders rose in all emergency departments, both metropolitan and non-urban. Visits for children with a substance-use disorder rose 159% while alcohol-related disorders fell 39%. Most of the pediatric visits occurred at hospitals that are intended for adults and are less prepared to handle higher level pediatric emergency health care. Children with mental health disorders make up approximately 2-5% of all pediatric ED visits nationally, and this number is increasing, according to research. The authors note the need to focus on future mental health preparedness efforts at all hospital emergency departments.


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.

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