Date: 19 Sep 2009

Pediatric Emergency Consultations: Prior Mental Health Service Use in Suicide Attempters

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This study investigated the relationship between presenting complaints and prior mental health encounters in youth seen for emergency psychiatric consultation. Records of youths aged 9–17 years old receiving a psychiatric consultation in a pediatric emergency department from 2002 to 2007 were examined (N = 1,900). Youth were classified by presenting complaint: suicide attempt, suicidal ideation, and behavioral problems. Nearly half of the youth presented with behavior problems, and 39% presented with suicidal ideation and/or attempt. Those presenting with both suicide attempt and behavior problems were most likely to have made a prior suicide attempt. Those presenting with suicide attempt alone were least likely to report current mental health treatment, while youth presenting with behavior problems alone were the most likely to report current mental health treatment. Further research is needed to better understand the role that emergency departments play in the course of care and to maximize the opportunity to make lasting and effective community-based care connections.