Returning to the emergency department: a retrospective analysis of mental health re-presentations among young people in New South Wales, Australia

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BMJ Open


Objectives This study aimed to describe mental health emergency department (ED) presentations among young people aged 8-26 years in New South Wales, Australia, and to identify key characteristics associated with higher risk of ED mental health re-presentation. Design, setting and participants Retrospective analysis of linked ED data records for mental health presentations between 1 January 2015 and 30 June 2018. Main outcome measures The main outcome was the total number of mental health ED re-presentations within 1 year, following initial presentation. Count regression models were fitted to estimate factors associated with higher likelihood of re-presentations. Results Forty thousand two hundred and ninety patients were included in the analyses, and 9713 (∼25%) re-presented during the following year; 1831 (20%) presented at least three times. On average, patients re-presented 0.61 times per 365 person-days, with average time until first re-presentation of ∼92 days but greatest risk of re-presentation within first 30-60 days. Young people with self-harm or suicidal diagnoses at initial presentation were more likely to re-present. Re-presentations were highest among young people <15 years (IRR 1.18 vs ≥20 years old), female (IRR=1.13 vs male), young people residing outside of major cities (IRR 1.08 vs major cities) and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people (IRR 1.27 vs non-Indigenous). Conclusions ED mental health re-presentation is high among young people. We demonstrate factors associated with re-presentation that EDs could target for timely, high-quality care that is youth friendly and culturally safe, with appropriate referral pathways into community-based primary and mental healthcare services.

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Funding Sponsor

National Health and Medical Research Council



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