Aim: To examine the utilization characteristics of children and adolescents with aggression presenting to emergency departments (ED) in Western Sydney.
Methods: Retrospective chart review of children and adolescents who presented with aggression to five non-psychiatric emergency departments over a 5-year period. Data were linked with the National Coroner's Information System Database.
Results: There were 279 index presentations by children and adolescents (66% male) with aggression. One hundred and seventeen (42%) were 14 years or under. The majority presented after working hours and/or on weekends (62%). Fifty-three percent of presentations had a self-harm component. In 26% of presentations, there was no documentation of mental health involvement. Children were discharged in 62% of presentations. Sixty-eight (24%) children and adolescents subsequently re-presented on 135 occasions with self-harm and/or aggression over the 5-year period. Four (1%) adolescents died.
Conclusion: A presentation to an ED with aggression by a child or adolescent is an indicator of significant psychosocial dysfunction. These children and adolescents present when services are least accessible and are at risk of re-presentation and death. To address this issue, systems need to be developed that facilitate collaboration between EDs and child and adolescent mental health services.