Mental health visits are more common in pediatric ED during a pandemic

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Pediatric mental health visits in ED increased in Chicago municipal hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic, a study in Academic pediatrics reported.

The study, conducted by authors at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago and Northwestern University School of Medicine in Feinberg, comes against what the AAP considers a “national emergency” for children’s mental health, coinciding with the onset of the pandemic.

Pediatric mental health visits in ED increased in Chicago municipal hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic, a study in Academic pediatrics reported. Source: Adobe Stock

Co-author Lavanya G. Shankar, Ph.D.a hospital medicine specialist at Lurie Children’s said in an interview with Healio that the genesis of the study came from her and her colleagues working in the emergency departments during the first few months of the pandemic.

“The pandemic has led to a combination of physical, psychological and economic stressors that have adversely affected the mental health of children and adolescents,” they wrote. “Due to many factors, including social isolation, the transition to a virtual school and difficulties in accessing the usual sources of care, the symptoms of depression and anxiety among children have increased.

They added that although recent publications on ED mental health visits have focused primarily on children’s hospitals, most children in the United States are in municipal emergency hospitals.

“Data from the municipal hospital conditions are needed,” they wrote. “Therefore, we aimed to describe the changes in the frequency of visits to pediatric mental health before and during the COVID-19 pandemic in EDs in the Chicago area.”

The authors identified 8,127 pediatric mental health visits from a set of ED visits to 12 hospitals in the Chicago area, including an independent children’s hospital, one academic medical hospital, and nine community hospitals, starting in March 2018, to establish a baseline trajectory. They divided the patients into four age groups, 5 to 8 years, 9 to 12 years, 13 to 15 years, and 16 to 17 years.

The authors found that visits to ED for mental health from children with existing mental health diagnoses increased by 2.29%, while visits to ED for mental health that led to medical admissions increased by 4.32%. . In addition, the proportion of mental health ED visits to municipal hospitals increased by 5.49%, and the percentage of mental health ED visits increased at the beginning of the pandemic, followed by a monthly increase.

“We also noticed that most patients come with self-harm and [suicidal behaviors] diagnoses during the pandemic, “Shankar said.

The findings support past research that found that mental health visits to pediatric clinics, including for eating disorders, depression and bipolar disorder, were more common during the COVID-19 pandemic and that suicide attempts in children increased during of the pandemic, as well as the recommendations of primary care. providers of access to pediatric mental health care. In addition, the prevalence of anxiety and depression among children has reportedly doubled during the pandemic.

“I think it’s important for clinicians who work and care for pediatric patients to realize that the pandemic has had a negative impact on children’s mental health. I really hope that clinicians are trying to find resources for these families and children in the best way possible, “Shankar said.

“It’s very difficult right now because we just don’t have the workforce and we don’t have the right number of providers, but I think if clinicians can recognize that and do their best to find some resource for these families, that would be great, whether it’s for psychology meetings or other resources for community counseling or even the use of school resources or the provision of telehealth resources, if any. “

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