Children who are hospitalised for injuries have increased mental health needs, suggests a recent research.
The study looked at children ages 0-18 years who were hospitalised for unintentional injuries at Nationwide Children’s from June 2005 through May 2015.
All children in this study were enrolled in the hospital’s managed-Medicaid programme, which allowed evaluation of baseline mental health.
Researchers found that children hospitalised for an injury had on average a 63% increase in mental health diagnoses and a 155% increase in medications prescribed to treat a mental illness.
Children under four years old with burns and children of all ages with head injuries were at greatest risk for new mental health diagnoses after injury. The rate increases were most notable for stress-related conditions including adjustment disorders, disruptive behaviour disorders, eating disorders, learning disorders, and sleep disorders.
“We expect children to show a certain amount of stress and discomfort as a result of spending time in the hospital for an injury,” said senior author Julie Leonard.
“When we look back at medical records, it’s clear that there are often serious mental health concerns after children go home. We, as healthcare providers, need to do a better job assessing children for mental health needs, identifying high-risk children, and referring them to mental health providers before sending them home.”
Behavioural health providers suggest that these findings mean parents also need to be vigilant after their child sustains an injury.
“If your child is behaving differently – for example, not sleeping well, experiencing changes in behaviour or mood, or struggling to focus in school – talk to your pediatrician or seek help from a behavioural health specialist,” said Sarah VerLee, a psychologist.
The findings appear in The Journal of Pediatrics.