Evaluating Mental Health Service use During and After Emergency Department Visits in a Multisite Cohort of Canadian Children and Youth


Objectives: The goal of this study was to examine the mental health needs of children and youth who present to the emergency department (ED) for mental health care and to describe the type of, and satisfaction with, follow-up mental health services accessed.

Methods: A 6-month to 1.5-year prospective cohort study was conducted in three Canadian pediatric EDs and one general ED, with a 1-month follow-up post-ED discharge. Measures included 1) clinician rating of mental health needs, 2) patient and caregiver self-reports of follow-up services, and 3) interviews regarding follow-up satisfaction. Data analysis included descriptive statistics and the Fisher’s exact test to compare sites.

Results: The cohort consisted of 373 children and youth (61.1% female; mean age 15.1 years, 1.5 standard deviation). The main reason for ED presentations was a mental health crisis. The three most frequent areas of need requiring action were mood (43.8%), suicide risk (37.4%), and parent-child relational problems (34.6%). During the ED visit, 21.6% of patients received medical clearance, 40.9% received a psychiatric consult, and 19.4% were admitted to inpatient psychiatric care. At the 1-month post-ED visit, 84.3% of patients/caregivers received mental health follow-up. Ratings of service recommendations were generally positive, as 60.9% of patients obtained the recommended follow-up care and 13.9% were wait-listed.

Conclusions: Children and youth and their families presenting to the ED with mental health needs had substantial clinical morbidity, were connected with services, were satisfied with their ED visit, and accessed follow-up care within 1-month with some variability.

Lead Researchers

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  1. Mario Cappelli

    Investigator, CHEO Research Institute

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