Trends in Psychiatric Emergency Department Visits Among Youth and Young Adults in the US

From the AAP:

BACKGROUND: Visits to the emergency department (ED) for psychiatric purposes are an indicator of chronic and acute unmet mental health needs. In the current study, we examined if psychiatric ED visits among individuals 6 to 24 years of age are increasing nationwide.

METHODS: ED data came from the 2011–2015 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, a national survey of ED visits across the United States. Psychiatric ED visits were identified by using the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision and reason-for-visit codes. Survey-weighted logistic regression analyses were employed to examine trends in as well as correlates of psychiatric ED visits. Data from the US Census Bureau were used to examine population rates.

RESULTS: Between 2011 and 2015, there was a 28% overall increase (from 31.3 to 40.2) in psychiatric ED visits per 1000 youth in the United States. The largest increases in psychiatric ED visits per 1000 US youth were observed among adolescents (54%) and African American (53%) and Hispanic patients (91%). A large increase in suicide-related visits (by 2.5-fold) was observed among adolescents (4.6–11.7 visits per 1000 US youth). Although psychiatric ED visits were long (51% were ≥3 hours in length), few (16%) patients were seen by a mental health professional during their visit.

CONCLUSIONS: Visits to the ED for psychiatric purposes among youth are rising across the United States. Psychiatric expertise and effective mental health treatment options, particular those used to address the rising suicide epidemic among adolescents, are needed in the ED.

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