Pediatric mental health is now at the top of the list for patient safety concerns in 2023, reports the Emergency Care Research Institute (ECRI).
This concern surpasses other top-of-mind challenges within the healthcare space, including:
- Violence against healthcare staff (2),
- Care coordination for complex medical conditions (6),
- Inaccurate patient medication lists (8), and
- Preventable harm due to missed care (10).1
Reasoning behind the rise in concern
Initial unease around pediatric mental health began in the early 2010’s following the growth of social media, limited access to pediatric behavioral health providers, drug and alcohol use, gun violence, and more – and once the pandemic hit these concerns only increased.
“Rates of depression and anxiety in children have been on the rise since 2017, but the pandemic exacerbated the situation,” states the ECRI report. “Rates of anxiety and depression in children ages three to 17 rose 29% in 2020 compared to 2016.”
It is also important to note the difference the pandemic had on adolescents compared to adults. It was reported that young girls were more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression and boys more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Unlike adults who are diagnosed with anxiety or depression in their later years, children are often left undiagnosed and have a higher likelihood of bringing their diagnosis into adulthood.
This increase in children experiencing extreme anxiety and depression – and not being effectively diagnosed and treated for it early on – has led to a rise in suicidal ideation. Consequently, emergency departments (EDs) are experiencing more young people ages 12 to 25 admitting for suspected suicide attempts.1
Rising rates of ED admissions, coupled with the fact that EDs are often not fully equipped to treat behavioral health conditions, causes many children to leave the ED with their needs still unmet.
How hospitals can be a part of the solution
Behavioral health integration enables hospitals to treat a larger patient population, opening the door to patients already being treated for a physical illness, as well as patients who have yet to be diagnosed with a mental health illness.
Being able to treat a larger patient population through behavioral health integration also streamlines the patient recovery journey, reduces care cost, decreases readmission risk and increases access to specialized resources.
From specially trained staff to patient engagement solutions and technology, having a comprehensive behavioral health program under one roof can offer significant benefit to patients no matter their age.
Read our guide, Behavioral Health: Expanding Needed Access Across Communities, to learn why behavioral health is a critical component to a hospital’s overall strategy and how partnership can help.
You may also find interesting: Understanding and Overcoming the Rising Adolescent Mental Health Crisis: 4 Factors
- Emergency Care Research Institute (ECRI). (2023, March). Top 10 Patient Safety Concerns 2023. https://www.ecri.org/top-10-patient-safety-concerns-2023-special-report/