- A pediatric mental health crisis is the top patient safety concern for 2023, according to a report out Monday from healthcare safety organization Emergency Care Research Institute.
- Rates of depression and anxiety in children have been on the rise since 2017, but the pandemic exacerbated the situation. Rates of anxiety and depression in children ages 3 to 17 rose 29% and 27%, respectively, in 2020 compared to 2016, according to a JAMA Pediatrics study ECRI cites.
- Physical and verbal violence against healthcare staff is the second top safety concern for the year, followed by clinician needs in times of uncertainty around maternal-fetal medicine.
While rates of anxiety and depression rose across all ages during the COVID-19 pandemic, children have been particularly hard hit with widespread mental health issues “approaching a national public health emergency,” according to ECRI.
The mean weekly number of emergency department visits for adolescent suicide attempts was 39% higher in winter of 2021 than in winter of 2019, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC also recently released data finding teenage girls in the U.S. are facing record high levels of violence, sadness and suicide risk.
“Even before COVID-19, the impact of social media, gun violence, and other socioeconomic factors were causing elevated rates of depression and anxiety in children,” Marcus Schabacker, ECRI’s president and CEO, said in a release.
“The challenges caused by the pandemic turned a bad situation into a crisis. We’re approaching a national public health emergency,” he said.
Other top safety concerns for the year include the impact on clinicians expected to work outside their scope of practice and competencies, delayed identification and treatment of sepsis and consequences of poor care coordination for patients with complex conditions, according to ECRI.
Many of the top concerns have been exacerbated by persistent staffing shortages — last year’s top concern from the organization — like the pediatric mental health crisis and violence against workers, the report said.
Similar to other medical issues, the pediatric mental health crisis is also disproportionately affecting historically marginalized communities, according to the release.
“Structural barriers and bias block access to high-quality mental healthcare for youth of color and LGBTQ youth despite the fact they are more likely to experience depression and anxiety, and attempt suicide at higher rates,” Dheerendra Kommala, chief medical officer at ECRI, said in the release.
One step providers can take in addressing the pediatric crisis is by performing universal mental health screenings during every office and hospital visit, ECRI said. Providers should also make personal connections with patients and their families and provide support related to social determinants of health, according to the report.