ER visits for mental health issues increase during pandemic, study shows

While the overall number of emergency department visits decreased during the pandemic, the median number of visits for mental heath conditions, suicide attempts and substance abuse were higher compared to the same period in 2019, according to research findings published Feb. 3 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Using data from the CDC's National Syndromic Surveillance Program, researchers evaluated nearly 190 million emergency department visits from Dec. 30, 2018, to Oct. 10, 2020. Of those visits, about 6 million included at least one of the following study outcomes: mental health conditions, suicide attempts, drug and opioid overdoses, intimate partner violence, or suspected child abuse and neglect. 

Visits for suicide attempts, and drug and opioid overdoses between March 15 and Oct. 10, 2020, were significantly higher compared to the same period in 2019, the findings showed. At the same time, emergency department visits related to intimate partner violence, and suspected child abuse and neglect were lower. 

"These findings suggest that ED use and priorities for care seeking shifted during the COVID-19 pandemic, underscoring mental health, substance abuse, and violence risk screening and prevention needs during public health crises," study authors wrote. 

To view the full findings, click here.

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