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Mental health disorders are the most common chronic conditions experienced by young people in the developed world and are a significant burden to public health in Australia1,2. Additionally, many mental health disorders of adulthood have their onset in childhood or adolescence3.

In recent years, the number of young people presenting to emergency departments with mental health conditions has steadily increased4. The most common nature of presentation is for intentional self-harm4. Other common presentations are for substance abuse, and mood, behavioural, or emotional disorders4.

Understanding the proportion of paediatric presentations to ED that are because of mental health has important implications for policy and service delivery4. Geographic statistics can provide insight into where hospitals need to be better equipped to effectively deal with mental health presentations and where non-hospital services have not been sufficient to meet the needs of individuals experiencing mental health conditions. They can also indicate where mental health and health service education may be lacking, leading individuals to present to an emergency department rather than an alternative service that may be better suited to their needs.

Understanding the prevalence of mental health emergency department presentations in young people is therefore useful for informing effective policy to improve the outcomes of young people across the state.


  1. Erskine H, Moffitt T, Copeland W, Costello E, Ferrari A, Patton G et al. A heavy burden on young minds: The global burden of mental and substance use disorders in children and youth. Psychological Medicine, 2015; 45(7):1551-63. Available from: 
  2. Lawrence D, Hafekost J, Johnson S, Saw S, Buckingham W, Sawyer M et al. Key findings from the second Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 2016; 50(9):876-86. Available from:     
  3. Kessler R, Berglund P, Demler O, Jin R, Merikangas K, Walters E. Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005; 62(6):593-602. Available from:
  4. Hiscock H, Neely R, Lei S, Freed G. Paediatric mental and physical health presentations to emergency departments, Victoria, 2008-15. Medical Journal of Australia, 2018. Available from: 

Data Source 

Emergency Department Data Collection 


Number of presentations to public and private Emergency Departments with a primary presenting mental health condition, from population aged 10-18


Number of Emergency Department presentations from population aged 10-18 years

Unit of Measure 

Per cent (%)



Data Confidentiality

Areas with a numerator less than 5 have been supressed


Presentations classed as primary mental health condition if any of the following mental health-related diagnostic codes were recorded:

  • ICD-10: F01-F99
  • ICD-9: 290–319, E950-E959