MONDAY, Nov. 14, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Emergency department visits for child suicidal ideation (SI) increased in Illinois in 2019 and continued increasing during the pandemic, according to a study published online Nov. 14 in Pediatrics.

Audrey G. Brewer, M.D., M.P.H., from the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and colleagues examined trends in emergency department visits for SI using Illinois hospital administrative data from January 2016 to June 2021 for youth aged 5 to 19 years. Trends in patient sociodemographic and clinical characteristics were characterized, comparing three equal 22-month periods.

The researchers identified 81,051 emergency department visits coded for SI at 205 Illinois hospitals, 24.6 percent of which resulted in hospitalization. Over 66 months, SI visits accounted for $785 million in charges and 145,160 hospital days. From 2016 through 2017 to 2019 through 2021, emergency department SI visits increased 59 percent and SI principal diagnosis visits increased from 34.6 to 44.3 percent. Between prepandemic Fall 2019 and Fall 2020, hospitalizations increased 57 percent. After adjustment for demographic and clinical characteristics, youth were 84 percent less likely to be hospitalized if SI was their principal diagnosis; they were more likely to be hospitalized if coded for severe mental illness, substance use, anxiety, or depression or if they had emergency department visits to children’s or behavioral health hospitals.

“The increase in SI-related emergency department visits for youth began before the COVID-19 pandemic and indicates continuous increasing mental health crises for individuals aged 5 to 19 years in Illinois,” the authors write. “Specific community-based mental health strategies targeting most at-risk youth may help improve mental health outcomes among youth.”

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