Ste-Justine: Mental health emergency visits increased during pandemic

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Jean-Benoit Legault, Canadian Press

MONTREAL — A new study reveals that the number of mental health emergency room visits to the Sainte-Justine hospital increased by nearly 70% in the first 20 months of the pandemic.

The authors of the study note that the phenomenon is much more pronounced in girls than boys.

Several Montreal researchers, including Doctors Olivier Drouin and Nicholas Chadi of CHU Sainte-Justine, were involved in this study, which focused on all visits to a children’s hospital emergency room by children ages 5 to 17 between April 2016 and November 2021. .

They found that the average monthly number of visits to the emergency room for mental health reasons increased by 69% in the first two decades of the health crisis; this increase fell slightly to 44% when the data were adjusted for seasonal changes.

Girls were more likely than boys to present to the emergency department due to mental health concerns, but no differences were found regarding socioeconomic status.

Dr. This greater presence of girls is likely attributable to multiple factors, Chadi said.

“Basically, girls were showing up more than boys for mental health reasons,” he said. Will girls seek more care, or girls with more psychological distress? Did the loss of social activities, sports activities, extracurricular activities affect girls more than boys? I think that comes into play as well.”

Another key ingredient is the amount of screen time that skyrocketed during the pandemic. Saying that social media followed, comparison with others and eating disorders, the expert said, “and it was felt very strongly by young girls.”

“We have never had so many young people hospitalized for eating disorders,” he explained. We have many young people who come in emergency situations, with incredible ideas, with suicide attempts.

Dr. Chadi said that while there was some decline in the use of mental health services and resources in the early months of the pandemic, the use was “largely compensated and then surpassed” later on.

“For all of these conditions, whether it’s anxiety disorders, mood disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse or neglect, it remains above average and normal for the remainder of 2021,” said Canadian physician Chadi. The Pediatric Association recently called Victor- He received the Marchessault award.

“I see this as a bit of the tip of the iceberg, because the emergency rooms in a tertiary hospital (like Sainte-Justine) are definitely the young people who have the most distress, the greater suffering or pain. lost access to their regular services or care,” he added.

Doctor Chadi explained that the pandemic has complicated access to services such as therapists or psychologists, making the emergency room the most accessible resource.

As a result, “There is still an increase in mental health problems among young people over the past decade and has been exacerbated by the pandemic,” he said. We must make sure that we are absolutely there to support our youth in community services, health, school… We must not hesitate to continue to find innovative solutions.”

The findings of this study were published in the Annals of General Psychiatry medical journal.