Study finds rising rate of mental health visits among youth to emergency departments

July 10, 2020
By Monica Robins

CLEVELAND — 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%.

Dr. Omar Elhaj is senior medical director for Lifestance Health psychological services.  He is seeing an increase in mental fall-out from the pandemic on children and adolescents.

“The stay-at-home order, the inability to socialize with peers, with friends at school, the inability to go out of the house, all of that has contributed to significant distress psychologically, socially and even existentially with the kids,” he says.

In a study published 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.

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