In brief: Mental illness in the emergency room

In brief

Mental illness in the emergency room

A study shows that psychiatric diagnosis is neglected in emergency rooms, and racial bias or misunderstanding may be part of the problem.

Researchers examined the records of more than 33,000 adolescent and adult patients admitted to emergency rooms during a six-month period at three hospitals, including two in a city that is 71% African American. They looked for diagnoses of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and schizophrenia.

About 5% of the patients had been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder; mood and anxiety disorders were most common. Only 2.5% had a psychiatric disorder as the chief or primary diagnosis.

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