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Childen Who Self Harm Not Being Evaluated For Mental Health Disorders, New Study Reveals Alarming Facts
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Childen Who Self Harm Not Being Evaluated for Mental Health Disorders, New Study Reveals Alarming Facts

A new study that is being published in the Journal of the American Academy of Children and Adolescent Psychiatry has revealed what researchers are calling an alarming lack of standard care extended to children who self harm themselves. The practice, called "cutting" is frequently seen in certain age groups and may be a precursor to more serious issues, including suicide attempts. But, according to this research, many of these kids are coming to the emergency room after cutting themselves and then are discharged without having had any mental health assessments. Unfortunately, suicide risk for these teens, already considered at risk, is at its highest in the thirty days following a self harming episode.

Jeff Bridge, the Principle Investigator for the Center for Innovation in the Pediatric Practice was the lead author for the story and led the research team from Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. The researchers concluded that all teens and younger children who show up at an emergency room for a known or suspected self harming event should also be automatically evaluated for mental health disorders as well as given information and referrals to follow up in the one month period after that visit.

Using available Medicaid data for children in the 10-19 age range, Bridge and the research team discovered that less than half of the teens who had been brought to an emergency room or a self harming incident were also assessed by anyone in the mental health department during that visit. And worse, those who had been brought to the ER for one mental health related event and then brought back for a second visit because of the self harming behavior were only slightly more likely to have a secondary evaluation when they came back.

An alarming 90% of teens who do self harm have been found to meet the criteria for at least one mental health disorder, including the most common grouping- mood disorders. That umbrella diagnosis can include depression, anxiety and others. Left untreated, depression and other mood disorders can increase the frequency or intensity of the self cutting behavior which in turn can increase the feeling of guilt and may lead to a vicious cycle which causes the behavior to be repeated, over and over.

The standard of care, especially with known self harm cases in other countries is to automatically have a mental health evaluator however, that is not being done in the US, at least not on a nationwide level.


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