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Follow up after emergency room visit for mental health

GEHA | April 15, 2022

It is important to get help early when signs appear.

Mental illness can affect people of all ages. In the United States,18% of adults and 13%–20% of children under 18 years of age experience mental illness. This means approximately one in five Americans live with a mental health condition.

During the pandemic there has been a sharp increase in the number of emergency room (ER) visits for mental health reasons. Specifically, among teen youth whose social interaction and schooling environments were dramatically altered during virtual learning, the occurrence of ER visits and mental health admissions for thoughts of or attempt at intentional self-harm and suicide have risen.

An initial ER visit or inpatient hospital stay following an ER visit often results in a diagnosis of mental illness. Mental health conditions typically begin during childhood, adolescence or teen years. It is important to get help early when signs appear.

Research suggests that follow-up care for people with mental illness is linked to fewer repeat ER visits, improved physical and mental function and increased compliance with follow-up instructions, including medication management and continued behavioral therapy.

Ideally, patients should see a mental health provider within seven days after discharge from the ER or hospital. The 30-day period immediately after the ER visit is important for engaging individuals in treatment and establishing continuity of care.

We can all help prevent suicide. Help is available 24 hours a day through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.272.8255. The Lifeline provides free and confidential support for people in distress. If you are seeing warning signs in yourself or someone you know, please contact the Lifeline or go to the ER for immediate evaluation and care.

If your loved one is experiencing other symptoms of a mental health concern, care is available. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is the nation’s largest mental health organization dedicated to building better lives. Your local NAMI chapter can offer support and provide resources to direct you to mental health providers in your area.

To access your behavioral health benefits with GEHA and locate providers in your area, please use the Find Care section of our website.

If you need immediate help to confirm benefit coverage for behavioral health, please call the contact number on the back of your GEHA ID card.

“Follow-up after emergency department visit for mental illness.”
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
National Alliance on Mental Illness.