Half of Children in Mental Health ER Don’t Receive Necessary Follow-ups

A recent study suggests approximately half of the children who have visited the emergency room for mental health reasons did not have a required follow-up visit within 30 days.

Especially during the pandemic, visits to the ER for mental health reasons increased. For children with existing mental health conditions, it increased by 2.29%. The number also increased for children with no prior diagnosis. Children’s visits to the ER for suicide attempts or self-injury heightened by 6.69%.

Whether someone is suffering from depressive symptoms or anxiety, it is essential that adequate healthcare is available to everyone. New research published on February 13 in Pediatrics, however, reveals that many children do not get enough care after their visits to the ER. The study observed 28,000 children between the age of six and 17 enrolled in Medicaid who visited the emergency department at least once between January 2018 and June 2019.

The team detected that less than one-third of children had the opportunity of an outpatient mental health service after seven days of discharge, while less than 50% of discharged children had a follow-up within 30 days. Follow-up visits are crucial as they provide patients with more support, increasing the chance of taking the necessary medication and diminishing another trip to the ER. The research also found that around 25% of those without a follow-up visit had to re-visit the ER within six months.

Follow-up visits can include outpatient care, telehealth therapy, intensive outpatient admission, community mental health centers, and more.

In President Biden's State of the Union on February 7, he re-mentioned his administration's announcement back in August 2022 to allow smoother mental health access for children by enabling schools to recruit more mental health professionals, including school counselors and social workers with Medicaid money. "Let’s do more on mental health, especially for our children. When millions of young people are struggling with bullying, violence, trauma, we owe them greater access to mental health care at their schools," said President Biden.

The research concluded: "This new analysis adds to the overwhelming evidence that there is an urgent need for a dramatic change in our pediatric mental health care system. We believe it is time for a 'child mental health moonshot,' and call on the field and its funders to come together to launch the next wave of bold mental health research, for the benefit of these children and their families who so desperately need our support."

How can we help individuals struggling with mental health issues?

Going through a difficult phase in life is common in today's society. In a fast-paced environment and with much societal pressure, individuals of all ages experience mental health issues that hinder their daily lives.

Here are some ways we can support one another and lend a hand, per the National Health Service:

  • Letting them know you're concerned and that you care.
  • Bringing up casual conversation and actions, as acting differently may cause more isolation and feelings of loneliness.
  • Providing your time to listen and show genuine support.
  • Taking the time to take care of yourself.
  • Providing practical help, such as guiding them through medical appointments or simple daily tasks.

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