Investigators reported that while the number of pediatric visits to the emergency department (ED) has remained relatively stable over the last decade, visits for mental health-related concerns have increased by 60%.

Of particular concern, ED visits for deliberate self-harm among pediatric patients are up 329%.1

Breaking down the data further, the highest jump in mental health-related ED visits was among patients age 15 to 17 years, a group that experienced a 68% increase. Researchers reported that while these visits increased among both men and women, the jump was particularly pronounced among women.

Mental health-related visits to the ED among girls were up 74%. Researchers noted that while ED visits for substance use disorders among children increased by 159%, the data show visits for alcohol-related disorders decreased by 39%.

During the study period (2007 to 2016), most of these visits took place at non-children’s EDs, a concern since data from the National Pediatric Readiness Project show these EDs tend to be less well-prepared to provide high-level care to pediatric patients, according to investigators.

The authors reported universal screening for suicidal ideation, which The Joint Commission requires, is an important step toward improving care quality for young patients with mental health disorders. More research is needed to determine how to optimally equip all EDs to manage pediatric cases.


  1. Lo CB, Bridge JA, Shi J, et al. Children’s mental health emergency department visits: 2007-2016. Pediatrics 2020; May 11;e20191536. doi: 10.1542/peds.2019-1536. [Online ahead of print].