Kids' ER Visits for Mental Health Problems Soared Over 10 Years
Jim Liebelt Jim Liebelt's Blog
- 2020 May 12
*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on HealthDay.
Children treated in America's emergency rooms for mental health disorders jumped 60% over a recent decade, a new study finds.
Between 2007 and 2016, visits for self-harm like suicidal thoughts and cutting soared 329% and treatment for drug abuse rose 159%, according to the study led by Charmaine Lo, from Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
"This is happening in all emergency departments all across the country and in kids of all ages," said Lo. "And regardless of whether it's a children's hospital or a general hospital, and whether or not they're in an urban location or in a rural location."
Lo thinks that social media has put a lot more pressure on children. "Children, particularly teenagers, are feeling that. Also, there's a lot more awareness of mental health, and children know that there are resources in place for them to seek help and get help," she said.
The coronavirus pandemic is only going to make things worse, experts say.
"Although this study was conducted prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the increase in social isolation and household stressors caused by the pandemic are likely to further worsen children's mental health," said Dr. Jennifer Hoffmann from the emergency medicine division at the Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.
A study from China showed that children affected by the COVID-19 pandemic had more symptoms of anxiety and depression, Hoffmann said.
For the study, Lo and her colleagues analyzed data for children aged 5 to 17 from Nationwide's emergency department databases.
The researchers found that, while the number of children seen in the emergency rooms remained stable between 2007 and 2016, visits for mental health problems increased dramatically.
The types of mental health problems reviewed included adjustment and anxiety disorders; attention-deficit, conduct, and disruptive behavior disorders; impulse control and mood disorders; and psychotic disorders like schizophrenia.
Lo's research showed that most kids went to emergency departments in regular hospitals that are less prepared to handle the special needs of children.