Emergency rooms across the United States are over crowded and are seeing more patients then ever. For a lot of people who do not have health insurance the emergency room is the only place they can receive treatment. Emergency rooms are dealing with more and more everyday things then actual emergencies. This type of crowding leads to long waits and sometimes poor quality care.
Young children are being seen more and more in emergency rooms for mental health related issues. One of the reasons is because there is such a lack of community based health care and caregivers often do not have options. It is inappropriate for emergency departments to being taking care of routine mental health care. Often there is not enough time or resources in the emergency room for children to get the services they need.
Each year emergency rooms see about 200,000 to over 825,000 children and youth with mental health problems. About two to five percent of all pediatric hospital visits are mental health related. There are many types of mental health problems that emergency rooms are seeing, everything from mild depression to suicide. With such a large increase of need there has been little discussion on the federal level on addressing this issue. The numbers are scary! About eleven percent of all pediatric mental health related issues were due to suicidal behavior. That is a lot of children who are on the brink of taking their own lives. This is something that cannot be ignored. Four percent of that eleven percent tried using drugs to commit suicide.
Race and ethnicity are not really a concern in this topic because it seems that those factors do not put anyone at anymore of a risk than a different race or ethnicity. Gender does not play a large role in risk either but age does. The majority of the mental health related visits to the emergency room were made by young teenagers. Geographic location also plays a factor in risk management. Children in the Northeast are more likely to visit the emergency room for mental health related problems then the children in the western part of the states.
The lack of trained staff in emergency rooms to deal with these mental health concerns is scary. Less then twenty-five percent of emergency rooms have staff that specializes in pediatric medicine. Over seventy-five percent of all pediatric residency programs do not require, do not provide, formal training in mental health emergencies. Children and youth account for about twenty-five percent of all emergency room visits but less the six percent of emergency rooms have staff to deal with these emergencies. Because there is such a lack of care in general many children will visit the emergency room more then once to deal with mental health issues.
There are long waits to receive such little care; the average wait for a child at the emergency room with a mental health emergency is five hours. This is just another reason why the government, on a federal level, needs to help build more community inpatient psychiatric treatment centers. Most emergency rooms do not even routinely screen for mental health issues. Seventy-five percent of children with mental health issues who have been seen in the emergency room had mild to severe depressive symptoms. Twelve percent of children who visit the emergency room for trauma related issues had mild to severe depressive symptoms and nineteen percent of children who went to the emergency room with medical related problems had mild to severe depressive systems. These statistics clearly show the need for emergency rooms to be routinely screening for mental health issues. Our youth, the future, is at great risk for untreated mental illnesses! Untreated mental issues often lead to drug use, violent behavior, alcohol use and many other ways of self medicating.