For Some Teens, It’s Been a Year of Anxiety and Trips to the E.R.
In a recent reportA research team led by the CDC found that less than half of emergency departments in US hospitals had clear policies to deal with behavioral problems to children. Psychiatrists say that it can take at least a few minutes for a patient’s observation to get to the bottom of any complex behavioral issue. And many emergency departments do not have on-hand specialists, dedicated space, or off-site resources to help them do the job well.
For Jean, her son’s diagnosis is complicated. He has since developed irritable bowel syndrome. “He is losing weight, and has started smoking because of boredom,” Jean said. “This is due to concern.”
Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio has an emergency department that is a decent size for a pediatric hospital with a capacity of 62 children or adolescents. But well before the arrival of coronaviruses, the department was strained to handle the increasing number of patients with behavior problems.
Head of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at the hospital, Dr. “It was a problem before the epidemic,” said David Axelson. “We were seeing an increase in emergency department visits for mental health problems in children, especially for suicidal thinking and self-harm. Our emergency department was overwhelmed by this, which made the children sit on the medical unit while waiting for a mental bed. “
Last March, to address the crowd, Nationwide Children’s opened a new pavilion, a nine-story facility with 54 dedicated beds and long stays for people with mental challenges. Dr. Axelson said this put pressure on the hospital’s regular emergency department and greatly improved care.
More than this epidemic, with a 15 percent increase in the number of admissions for mental health problems compared to previous years, it is hard to imagine what it would be like without an additional, dedicated behavioral clinic.
Other hospitals outside the state often expect to place a patient in distress, but simply do not have enough space. “We’ll have to say no,” Dr. Axelson said.