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Emergency Psychiatric Care for Children and Adolescents: A Literature Review

Janssens, Astrid PhD*; Hayen, Sarah MD*; Walraven, Vera PhD*; Leys, Mark PhD; Deboutte, Dirk PhD, MD*

doi: 10.1097/PEC.0b013e3182a393e7
Review Article

Objectives Over the years, increasing numbers of children and adolescents have sought help for acute psychiatric problems. The responses to this treatment-seeking behavior are heterogeneous in different settings and nations. This review aimed to provide an answer to the questions “which care should be offered to children and adolescents presenting with a psychiatric emergency or crisis and how should it be organized.”

Methods We committed a literature review to find out if any recommendations can be made regarding the organization of emergency care for children and adolescents with acute mental health problems.

Results The lack of a clear definition of emergencies or urgencies hampered this review; we note the differences between adult and child or adolescent psychiatry. The theoretical models of care found in the literature are built up from several process and structural components, which we describe in greater detail. Furthermore, we review the main service delivery models that exist for children and adolescents.

Conclusions Currently, emergency psychiatric care for children and adolescents is practiced within a wide range of care models. There is no consensus on recommended care or recommended setting for this population. More research is needed to make exact recommendations on the standardization of psychiatric care for young people in emergency settings.

From the *Collaborative Antwerp Psychiatric Research Institute (CAPRI), University of Antwerp, Antwerp; and †Belgian Health Care Knowledge Centre (KCE), Brussels, Belgium.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Sarah Hayen, MD, Van Schoonbekestraat 20 B8, 2018 Antwerpen, Belgium (e-mail:,

This study was funded by the Belgian Health Care Knowledge Centre.

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.