Nearly 1 in 5 children each year suffers a psychiatric illness, according to research estimates. But a national shortage of medical specialists and inpatient facilities means that many still go untreated — despite national efforts to improve mental health care.
New research is driving home the consequences. Scientific abstracts presented Monday in Las Vegas, at the annual meeting of the American College of Emergency Physicians, offer insights into how frequently patients with mental health issues land in the emergency room — often because opportunities to intervene earlier are missed. Pediatricians and child psychiatrists say children are among the hardest hit.
The researchers analyzed data compiled by the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, which tracked mental health visits to hospital emergency departments between 2001 and 2011.
Compared with physically ill patients, people with mental health conditions rely more on the emergency department for treatment and are more often admitted to the hospital from the ER, the scientists found. Also, they tended to be stuck in the ER longer than people who show up in the ER with physical symptoms.
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