Frequent Emergency Department Use by Individuals Seeking Mental Healthcare: A Systematic Search and Review

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The aim of this study was to compare research on individuals who frequently use the ED for mental health complaints including parameters used to identify the population, as well as socio-demographic, clinical, and service use factors.


Systematic search and review of Medline, Cinahl, PsycInfo, and HealthStar (1980 to 2011). Double-data extraction ensured accuracy. Descriptive statistics were reported.


Thirteen studies were included. Median sample size was 100. Parameters varied across studies. Profile: young, unemployed males living in transient accommodations, diagnosis of a psychotic disorder, self-referral to the ED for symptoms/unmet needs, and discharge to community resources.


Consistently used, meaningful definitions/parameters are needed.

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