Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Threefold Increase Seen in Children Visiting Emergency Departments for Deliberate Self-Harm

The percentage of children presenting to emergency departments (EDs) with mental illness and substance use disorders rose dramatically between 2007 and 2016, with visits related to deliberate self-harm increasing by more than 300%, according to a report in Pediatrics.

“We observed that children were presenting at EDs in all locations with all pediatric volumes, whether they were specialized or not,” said lead author Charmaine Lo, Ph.D., M.P.H., senior research scientist at National Children’s Hospital, in a video presentation about the study that accompanies the report. “In fact, most visits were to nonspecialized, nonchildren hospital EDs,” she added.

Lo and colleagues analyzed data from the 2007 to 2016 Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. They looked at visits for children aged 5 to 17 years who presented with mental disorders, substance use disorders, and/or who presented for deliberate self-harm. They also looked at visits according to geographic location of the hospital, the volume of children regularly seen at the hospital, and whether the hospital was a specialized children’s hospital or not.

The authors found that over the 10-year study period, the total number of pediatric ED visits was stable, but pediatric ED visits for all mental health disorders rose 60% and visits related to substance use disorder rose 159%. ED visits for deliberate self-harm increased by 329% during this time.

“Although the increased rate of pediatric mental health visits was greatest among high-pediatric-volume EDs, our results show that all EDs, regardless of pediatric volume, experienced increased visits by children for mental health disorders,” Lo and colleagues wrote. “It will be important to focus future mental health preparedness efforts and resources on all hospital EDs, particularly smaller-volume and rural EDs, and not just on children’s hospital EDs.”

(Image: iStock/MJFelt)

Now in Psychiatric News

Psychiatric News continues to report news and information relevant to psychiatrists about the COVID-19 pandemic. We will highlight these articles for you as they become available online:

Hispanic Community and COVID-19: Addressing Health Inequalities Can No Longer Be Delayed

Don’t miss out! Learn when Psychiatric News posts new articles by signing up here.


The content of Psychiatric News does not necessarily reflect the views of APA or the editors. Unless so stated, neither Psychiatric News nor APA guarantees, warrants, or endorses information or advertising in this newspaper. Clinical opinions are not peer reviewed and thus should be independently verified.