Mental health emergencies

New CCCH research has revealed the number of children presenting to Victorian emergency departments for mental health problems increased during 2008-2015, particularly for self-harm, depression, and behavioural disorders.

The research, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, presented data showing a 46 per cent increase in children and young people from birth to 19 years in Victorian emergency departments for mental health treatment between 2008 (5988 patients) and 2015 (8726).

Read the paper

Professor Harriet Hiscock, lead author and CCCH Associate Director, discussed the rise in the number of children and young people presenting to emergency departments with mental health problems in a podcast episode with the Medical Journal of Australia.

Professor Hiscock explained that children who were admitted to emergency with mental health problems were more likely to be triaged as ‘urgent’, spent longer in the emergency department and were more likely to be admitted compared to children who presented at emergency with physical health symptoms.

Some strategies that could help reduce the burden of mental health problems on emergency departments include:

  • increased mental health education for families, workforces and systems for children and young people
  • increased knowledge of the referral processes
  • better publicly funded services.

Listen to the podcast

Professor Harriet Hiscock said, “Future research is needed to understand why these children are turning up to emergency departments, especially children with depression and anxiety. It may be an issue of not knowing where else to go, or they may go to their GP and get referrals and there’s waiting times, out-of-pocket costs or services that don’t open in hours that parents and children can get to them. We are working towards a better understanding of why children are turning up to our emergency departments so we can better design and roll out solutions to stem the tide.”

Media coverage

Number of mental health visits to hospital for Victorian kids triples in seven years, study finds, ABC News, 7 May 2018

Mental health crisis in our children on the rise, News Mail, 7 May 2018

Surge in youth mental health emergencies, SBS News, 7 May 2018

Youth mental issues on the rise, The Australian, 7 May 2018

Alarming rise in number of children in emergency with mental health problems, Herald Sun, 7 May 2018

Child visits to emergency departments for mental health issues triple, Scimex, 7 May 2018

Mental health presentations tripled, Health Professionals Radio, 8 May 2018

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