More Canadian Kids and Teens Are Going to Hospital ERs for Mental Health Treatment, and Officials Are Worried

Entrance to emergency room at hospital
There has been a recent increase in the number of Canadian children and teens seeking treatment for mental health concerns, and they’re going to hospital emergency rooms for help.A recent report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) found that ER visits for young Canadians (ages five to 24) seeking mental health treatments increased by 45% between 2006 and 2014. The number of inpatient hospitalizations for this same age group increased by 37% during the same time period, according to The Canadian Press and CBC News.

Although healthcare workers say that they’re glad to see the stigma of mental illness start to fade, they are still frustrated that teens feel their communities have no other resources for mental health treatment.

Many hospital workers note that mental health concerns require treatment over a long period of time, and hospitals don’t have the community resources necessary to ensure a full recovery.

For other healthcare workers, this trend makes it clear that communities have been failing to provide young citizens with the medical care that they need.

“It’s a pretty stark call to action,” said Dr. Stan Kutcher, a psychiatry professor at Dalhouse University. “”The kind of community-based, easily accessible treatments that we should be having are likely not there [in hospitals].”

Even though Canadians have free healthcare, it’s important to note that there are financial implications involved, too. When preventative care isn’t readily available, a medical problem may go unnoticed until it turns into a full-blown crisis.

This is actually the case where dental care is concerned, and the cost of providing reactive dental care, rather than preventative care, is partly why Canadians spend an estimated $12 billion annually on dental services. Because so many kids and young adults live in rural regions where dentists and dental technicians are scarce, the cost of a dental appointment doesn’t matter too much when it’s impossible to get to a dentist’s office in the first place.

In a similar way, mental health treatment options are affordable and acceptable, but in many regions of Canada, there simply aren’t enough facilities that can provide adequate treatment for pediatric mental health conditions.

Currently, the report states that about 8% of Canadian youth describes their mental health as “poor.”

Urgent Care Clinics Becoming Growing Option for Sick Children, Says University of Michigan Study

When it comes to taking care of sick children, many parents find that options are limited if the children are prohibited from attending daycare or school. As such, working parents have to resort to taking time off, something that can cost the whole family in major resources.

But parents who need care for their children outside of normal working hours are in luck: an increasing number of urgent care facilities are popping up around the nation, and they can take the frustration out of waiting days or weeks for a doctor’s appointment and spending time and money in an emergency room.

And although these centers are new, one study has already concluded that they are growing in popularity as an option for parents of sick kids.

The study, published by the University of Michigan on June 23, found that more parents are choosing urgent care over emergency room visits when their children get sick and cannot attend school or daycare. Among parents who are single, divorced, African American, have job concerns, or need a doctor’s note for the child to return to school or care, emergency room and urgent care visits are significantly higher.

Children who have frequent mild illnesses are often unnecessarily excluded from child care at high rates. For parents whose children lack a readily available primary care physician, the emergency room and urgent care are more likely options.

According to the UM study, 80 percent of parents took their children to a primary care doctor when their children couldn’t attend child care or school. Twenty-six percent took their children to urgent care, beating the ER by one percent as only 25 percent of parents took their kids to an emergency room.

The UM study was based on a survey of 630 parents with children ages 0 to 5 in child care.

For many parents, availability isn’t the only issue when it comes to raising children. Out of pocket costs for healthcare are rising for everyone in the U.S. at alarming rates, and the cost of raising a child until the age of 18, for any born around 2012, is approximately $217,000 — not including college costs.