ED visits increasing for kids with mental health disorders


Children with mental health disorders are visiting emergency departments (EDs) at increasing rates. A new study looks at whether the EDs can provide optimal care.

In recent years, the mental health of children has received greater focus. Visits to the emergency department (ED) for mental health reasons have been on the rise. A new study in Pediatrics looked at the trends in pediatric mental health visits to EDs.1

Investigators used the 2007 to 2016 Nationwide Emergency Department Sample databases to find the number of ED visits for children aged 5 to 17 years with a mental health disorder. The ED characteristics included children’s ED classification, location, and pediatric volume.

They found that the overall number of pediatric ED visits had remained stable, but visits for self-harm had increased by 329% and the visits for all mental health disorders had risen by 60%. Children with substance use disorder saw the number of visits increase by 159%, but alcohol-related disorders dropped 39%. The increased visits happened in EDs of all pediatric volumes, regardless of children’s ED classification. Visits to nonmetropolitan areas rose 41% and visits to low-pediatric-volume areas rose 53%

The number of visits for children with mental health disorders are on the rise. Unfortunately, many of the visits happen in nonchildren’s EDs that have been shown to lack preparation to provide the higher-level pediatric emergency care that children with mental health disorders may require for optimal outcome




1.    Lo CB, Bridge JA, Shi J, Ludwig L, Stanley RM. Children's mental health emergency department visits: 2007-2016. Pediatrics. 2020;145(5):e20191536. doi: 10.1542/peds.2019-1536

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