Early intervention and care for children and teens with mental health and behavioral problems is important. Many conditions can be diagnosed and managed by pediatric specialists in psychology, psychiatry and neurology in an outpatient setting. However, if a child or adolescent is having an acute crisis and has indicated the potential to self-harm by a threat or attempt at suicide, or has threatened or attempted to harm others, hospitalization may be necessary to evaluate and stabilize the child or teen. Mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder are the most common conditions resulting in an emergency room visit or hospitalization.
Recognizing the warning signs
- Suicide threats, direct and indirect
- Obsession with death
- Poems, essays and drawings that refer to death
- Giving away belongings
- Dramatic change in personality or appearance
- Irrational, bizarre behavior
- Overwhelming sense of guilt, shame or rejection
- Changed eating or sleeping patterns
- Severe drop in school performance
These warning signs should be taken seriously. Obtain help immediately. Caring and support can save a young life. Although rare, some children and teens do attempt suicide, and may attempt impulsively when they are angry or upset. Hospitalization may be required to stabilize the child and keep him or her from acting on suicidal thoughts or psychotic symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized thinking, or to keep a child or teen from engaging in risky behaviors. Hospitalization may also be needed when the anxiety, worry, or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning such as school truancy, withdrawal from age-appropriate social activities, strained family relationships, or self-medication with substances.
If your child is experiencing illness or injury contact your Main Line Health pediatrician. A dedicated pediatric emergency room and inpatient unit is located at Bryn Mawr Hospital. Emergency rooms are also located at Lankenau Medical Center, Paoli Hospital and Riddle Hospital.