An Alberta-based study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) found that First Nations and lower-income children had more repeat visits to hospital emergency departments (ED) for mental health-related crises than other children.
The study looked at Alberta data for a six year period involving 30,656 visits by 20,956 children. While Aboriginal children comprised six per cent of the paediatric population, they accounted for 13.8 per cent of ED visits. Fourteen per cent of the study group were from families receiving government-provided income subsidies, but made 18.7 per cent of ED visits. Aboriginal children also experienced the largest increase in visits to ED for mental health crises, yet were less likely to receive follow up care with a physician.
The most common diagnoses during visits were anxiety- or stress-related disorders and emotional or behavioural issues related to substance use. Girls aged 15 to 17 years were most likely to visit the emergency department for mental health care in every socioeconomic population.
System-level responses are suggested. Given that the emergency department is a critical access point for children who are unable to access care otherwise, study authors recommend investments in culturally-based, community- and school-based resources to reduce crisis events and increase access to mental health services.
See “Emergency health care use and follow-up among sociodemographic groups of children who visit emergency departments for mental health crises” on the Canadian Medical Association Journal’s website, at www.cmaj.ca.