Hospitals are seeing three times more children for mental health issues. Picture: Kidspot
Hospitals are seeing three times more children for mental health issues. Picture: Kidspot

Mental health crisis in our children on the rise

ALARMING new research has confirmed what many parents fear: the mental health crisis in our children isn't going away. In fact, it's on the rise.

A new study has revealed the number of children who presented to emergency departments in Victoria with mental health issues has tripled over a seven year period (2008-2015).

That's 52,000 children in Victoria alone.

The study, conducted by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI), and published in the Medical Journal of Australia, looked at children from birth to 19 years.

It found that between 2008 and 2015, 52,000 children presented to Victorian public hospital emergency departments statewide with mental health disorders.

The most common conditions were self-harm, drug and alcohol issues, and then mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Age brackets at risk

Worryingly, researchers saw a particular increase in depression and anxiety disorders for children between the ages of 10 and 14, and again in the age bracket of 15 and 19.

Those who presented with mental health issues were more likely to be classified as 'urgent' with longer stays in the emergency department than those with physical health issues.

What can be done?

So, it's quite obvious there's a serious problem here. But what steps can we take to help solve it?

The study's authors suggest a range of potential solutions. These include:

  • Public health campaigns to help improve mental health literacy in caregivers
  • Further training for GPs and other health professionals in how to recognise and support families with children who have mental health issues
  • Providing community based mental health services for children under 12.

A lack of services for kids under 12

This last point is particularly interesting (and disturbing) as it makes you realise how few services are actually currently available to provide support for that age group.

"Future research is needed to understand why these children are turning up to emergency departments, especially children with depression and anxiety," MCRI researcher and paediatrician Professor Harriet Hiscock said.

"It may be an issue of not knowing where else to go, or they may go to their GP and get referrals and there's waiting times, out-of-pocket costs or services that don't open in hours that parents and children can get to them. We are working towards a better understanding of why children are turning up to our emergency departments so we can better design and roll out solutions to stem the tide."

Worried? Seek help

Parents can find information on how to spot the signs of mental health problems in their children in this RCH Child National Health Poll.

If you think your child may be experiencing mental health issues, please reach out to one of the excellent organisations below.

Picture: Kidspot
Picture: Kidspot

This story originally appeared on Kidspot and has been republished here with permission.