Burden of unmet mental health needs in assault-injured youths presenting to the emergency department

Julia S. Anixt, Nikeea Copeland-Linder, Denise Haynie, Tina L. Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: To determine if there is a gap between behavioral symptoms and previously recognized mental health conditions in youth victims of peer assault injuries and to describe gender differences in psychological symptoms. Methods: A cross-sectional comparison of rates of previously diagnosed mental health conditions and clinical range behavioral symptoms as measured by the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) in 168 youths (range, 10-15 years old) presenting to the emergency department (ED) after an interpersonal assault injury. The Fisher exact test was used for comparisons. Results: Mental health symptoms were common among assault-injured youths. More than half of the youths demonstrating clinical range symptoms on the attention problems or anxious/depressed scales of the CBCL had no prior diagnosis of these conditions. Girls were more likely than boys to exhibit clinical range aggressive behavior symptoms (odds ratio [OR], 3.61; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.64-7.97). Aggressive behavior was associated with clinical range scores on the other problem scales of the CBCL. Conclusions: After an ED visit for an assault-related injury, less than half of 10 to 15 year olds with significant symptoms of common mental conditions reported having a previously diagnosed disorder, reflecting a burden of unmet psychological needs. An ED visit for an assault injury provides an opportunity to screen for emotional/behavioral symptoms and to refer to appropriate follow-up mental health care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-130
Number of pages6
JournalAcademic pediatrics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • aggression
  • assault
  • emergency department
  • gender
  • mental health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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