There has been an increase in children and young people attending emergency departments for mental health reasons, including self-harm. Patients often report having poor experiences when attending emergency departments for mental health support. However, there has yet to be a review exploring the experiences of young people. Our aim in this study was to synthesise qualitative literature on young people’s experiences of going to emergency departments for mental health support.
A systematic review and metasynthesis were conducted. Five databases and grey literature were searched for relevant studies. Five articles met study criteria and were analysed using an iterative process of thematic synthesis.
The synthesis yielded four overarching themes: (a) emergency departments’ inability to meet the mental health needs of young people, (b) emergency departments exacerbating patient distress, (c) patients feeling like a burden or undeserving of treatment and (d) consequences of poor emergency department experiences.
These findings (based on a still very limited literature) highlight the role that emergency departments have in relation to being a key point of contact with young people who self-harm. To properly engage with patients, emergency departments need to have the resources to provide compassionate care and follow clinical guidelines regarding assessments.