New data from 2022 reveals disconcerting trends in pediatric mental health. As children’s hospitals have been experiencing firsthand, mental health cases among emergency department discharges were 20% higher in 2022 than 2019 (before the pandemic started), according to data from CHA’s Pediatric Health Information System (PHIS).
Among all the mental health cases identified using the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Disorders Classification System (CAMHD-CS), suicide (attempts and ideation) and self-injury has seen the greatest increase and has become the most common ED mental health condition in children’s hospitals. Since 2019, ED cases of suicide and self-injury have risen 50% and inpatient cases have risen 30%. Since 2016, ED cases at have nearly tripled.
“Not only are the numbers increasing, but we are also seeing worse acuity—children don’t get to us until their illness is more advanced, such as having persistent suicidal ideation instead of initially fleeting thoughts,” says Heather Huszti, chief of psychology at Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC).
“As tempting as it might be to pin this increase on one specific thing, it is likely to be a complex interaction of several factors. Children’s hospitals must continue to invest in and advocate for children’s mental health. More than half of children who make a suicide attempt or die by suicide have a visit to a physical health provider in the six months before their attempt or death. Children’s health care is the early warning system for suicidal ideation.”