Young people (10-24 years old) with mental health concerns are increasingly presenting to hospital emergency departments (EDs). The purpose of this review was to identify the core components and outcomes of mental health interventions for young people that are initiated in the ED, such that they are delivered in the ED and/or by ED health workers.
Six electronic databases were systematically searched. Primary peer-reviewed qualitative or quantitative studies describing an ED-initiated mental health intervention for young people published between 2009 and 2020 were included.
Nine studies met the inclusion criteria. The included studies demonstrated that compared with traditional ED care, ED-initiated mental health interventions lead to improved efficiency of care and decreased length of stay, and a core component of this care was its delivery by allied health practitioners with mental health expertise. The studies were limited by focusing on service efficiencies rather than patient outcomes. Further limitations were the exclusion of young people with complex mental health needs and/or comorbidities and not measuring long-term positive mental health outcomes, including representations and whether young people were connected with community health services.
This systematic review demonstrated that ED-initiated mental health interventions result in improved service outcomes, but further innovation and robust evaluation are required. Future research should determine whether these interventions lead to better clinical outcomes for young people and staff to inform the development of best practice recommendations for ED-initiated mental health care for young people presenting to the ED.
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