Hospital admissions and ED visits for mental disorders have risen among children and youth

May 2017

With the beginning of May comes Children’s Mental Health Week, when youth, parents, teachers and health care personnel come together to build awareness about children’s mental health, to break down stigma and to advocate for change.

Child and youth mental health in Canada infograficChild and youth mental health is a significant concern, with estimates showing that as many as 1 in 5 Canadian youth may develop a mental disorder.

While it is not clear whether more young people are developing mental disorders today than in the past, our analysis shows an increase in rates of emergency department and inpatient hospitalization use for mental disorders among this cohort. At the same time, rates for other conditions are stable or declining.

Look for updated data tables from CIHI on June 8.

The costs of mental illness

Mental illness is one of many complex and high-cost conditions for which many jurisdictions are putting specific services in place, like HealthLinks in Ontario.

Compared with other patients, those with mental illness have costlier and longer stays and are more likely to have repeat visits. This underscores the importance of early intervention.

“Hospitals are a high-cost service for governments,” said Kimberly Moran, Chief Executive Officer, Children’s Mental Health Ontario. “We use CIHI data to calculate the cost to government and recommend they re-allocate some of their investment toward community-based treatment options.”

Without data at the community level, it is difficult to say whether there is a change in other sectors as well.

Kids can’t wait

Children’s Mental Health Ontario is one of the organizations advocating for change and using CIHI data to inform the conversation.

“When we talk to youth and when we talk to parents, the most important issue is being able to get the treatment the kids need, when they need it and where they need it,” Moran said. “CIHI data has highlighted very important issues for children and parents.”

Moran points to the increase in emergency department visits and hospital admissions for children and youth seeking treatment for mental health disorders as an indication of a lack of capacity in the system of care for mental illness.

“When they don’t get the help they need, they go into crisis and that’s when they need to go to hospital. CIHI data has pointed out trends that people really weren’t looking at before,” said Moran.

In Ontario, you can expect to see landmarks like the CN Tower shine green for Children’s Mental Health Week, as well as green ribbons to commemorate this outreach initiative.

Children’s Mental Health Week runs from May 1 to 7, 2017. You can be a part of the conversation on social media by posting with the hashtag #kidscantwait.