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Number Of Children Visiting ERs Due To Mental Health Problems Rising At Alarming Rate

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A new study found that the number of children heading to the emergency room for mental health concerns has increased significantly from 2012 to 2016. More children, specifically from minority groups, are diagnosed with mental health-related issues.   ( Paul Brennan | Pixabay )

Public health officials have expressed concern over the increasing number of children who visit emergency rooms due to mental health issues. 

This weekend, at the American Academy of Pediatrics 2018 National Conference & Exhibition in Florida, a new study was presented that explored mental health concerns among children and adolescents. It found that from 2012 to 2016, diagnoses for mental health crisis have increased dramatically, particularly in minority children. 

Mental Health Crisis In Children

The study examined data from the Pediatric Health Information System that collected information from more than 45 children's hospitals across the United States. The researchers found that in 2012, an average of 50.4 emergency room visits per 100,000 children was due to mental health concerns. In 2016, it has increased to 78.5 visits per 100,000 children. 

In the United States, an estimated 1.7 million children have a psychiatric disorder. Around 2 to 5 percent of all emergency room visits by children are related to mental health concerns. Mental health disorders are among the most common pediatric illnesses across the country. 

Mental Health Crisis In Minority Children 

The study also revealed that from 2012 to 2016, 78.4 per 100,000 non-Latino black children were diagnosed with mental health disorder. Only 51.5 per 100,000 non-Latino white children received a diagnosis related to mental health. 

"When stratified by race and ethnicity, mental health-related visits to the nation's emergency departments rose for non-Latino black children and adolescents at almost double the rate seen for non-Latino white children and adolescents," stated Monika K. Goyal, assistant division chief and director of research at the Children's National Health System. "These children come to our emergency departments in crisis, and across the nation children's hospitals need to expand mental health resources to better serve these vulnerable patients."

Unfortunately, the study could not say the specific reasons for the children's visit to emergency departments because researchers could not review individual charts. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also noticed an increase of mental health issues in children, especially major depression. One in five children from 3 to 17 years old has mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders. However, only 20 percent get diagnosed. 

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