Emergency Department Doctors Call for More Resources to Address Youth Mental Health Crisis

There has been a significant increase in emergency department visits by children and youth experiencing mental and behavioral health emergencies.

Emergency Department Doctors Call for More Resources to Address Youth Mental Health Crisis

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The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Emergency Physicians, and the Emergency Nurses Association on Wednesday issued a joint policy statement calling for more support to help U.S. emergency departments (EDs) deal with the influx of children and young adults they see who are experiencing mental health crises.

The statement cites studies that found there has been an increase in emergency department visits by children and youth with mental and behavioral health emergencies, as well as the increased prevalence of depression and suicide in children, adolescents, and young adults. It also mentions the increased suicide rates in Black school-aged children, which is about two times higher compared to White children.

According to the paper, the communities dealing with these issues often don’t have adequate resources to provide treatment. When this happens, hospital emergency departments become the safety nets for those requiring acute and subacute mental and behavioral health care.

The statement also says that children and youth with intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, behavioral dysregulation, immigrant children, children on welfare, youth in the juvenile justice system, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ+) youth may have additional challenges, which must be addressed.

“Because of the diversity of the populations and the high prevalence of trauma and adversity among ED patients, organizations/ED leadership should provide resources for physicians, PAs, NPs, and nurses about trauma-informed relational care as a universal approach to care,” the paper says.

The statement lists a multitude of recommendations to address the problems, such as:

  • Developing emergency department transfer protocols
  • Using telehealth to identify and divert low-acuity patients
  • Activating existing mental health mobile crisis teams to respond to schools and other locations
  • Training ED staff to recognize and provide initial care to children and youth
  • Expanding telehealth consultations in resource-limited areas
  • Developing 24-hour access to interpreters
  • Leveraging technology for safety planning
  • Providing appropriate and safe environments (such as environments that are quiet for children with autism spectrum disorder) for patients with mental and behavioral health disorders
  • Advocating for community-based behavioral services
  • Developing school-based screening and training school staff how to recognize mental and behavioral health issues in children

Read the policy statement.

Here are some other helpful resources and studies on mental health:

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About the Author

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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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