Pediatric and adolescent mental health emergencies in the emergency medical services system.

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DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-0522


Emergency department (ED) health care professionals often care for patients with previously diagnosed psychiatric illnesses who are ill, injured, or having a behavioral crisis. In addition, ED personnel encounter children with psychiatric illnesses who may not present to the ED with overt mental health symptoms. Staff education and training regarding identification and management of pediatric mental health illness can help EDs overcome the perceived limitations of the setting that influence timely and comprehensive evaluation. In addition, ED physicians can inform and advocate for policy changes at local, state, and national levels that are needed to ensure comprehensive care of children with mental health illnesses. This report addresses the roles that the ED and ED health care professionals play in emergency mental health care of children and adolescents in the United States, which includes the stabilization and management of patients in mental health crisis, the discovery of mental illnesses and suicidal ideation in ED patients, and approaches to advocating for improved recognition and treatment of mental illnesses in children. The report also addresses special issues related to mental illness in the ED, such as minority populations, children with special health care needs, and children's mental health during and after disasters and trauma.

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MeSH Keywords

Adolescent; Adolescent Medicine; Child; Child, Exceptional; Emergencies; Emergency Medical Services; Emergency Service, Hospital; Female; Humans; Male; Mental Disorders; Mental Health; Needs Assessment; Patient Care Team; Pediatrics; Suicide, Attempted; United States


Attempted teen suicide; Mental health

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