ERs Attract Kids With Mental Problems

Filed under: Medical Conditions, In The News, Health & Safety: Big Kids, Health & Safety: Tweens, Health & Safety: Teens

ER mental problems

A number of emergency room visits are for mental reasons. Credit: Corbis

Give kids access to mental health services, and they still bring their psychological problems to the emergency room.

The Wall Street Journal reports researchers at Johns Hopkins Children's Center thought that was weird.

They looked into it, and, sure enough, at least 71 percent of the kids who came to the E.R. with psychological problems already had their own mental health provider. Among repeat customers, that percentage jumped to 85 percent.

And the emergency room gets a lot of repeat business. According to the Journal, of some 2,903 young patients who visited the E.R. for mental health reasons, 338 were back within six months.

This is a little discouraging for folks who thought community-based mental health services might cut down on emergency room visits more than that.

Emily Frosch, the lead researcher and a pediatric psychiatrist at John Hopkins, tells the newspaper such hopes don't account for certain factors.

Mental health providers might tell their patients to go to the E.R. for after-hours problems, she says. It could also be that parents feel they'll get a quicker response in the emergency room, she adds.

"We need to better understand how the ER is meeting their needs," Frosch tells the Journal.

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