McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH) recognizes that children, youth, and families may experience mental health crises which require prompt attention. To this end, MCH is committed to ensuring all children and families have access to emergency mental health care, when they need it.
Located within the emergency department of MCH, a specialized team of clinicians is available to provide emergency mental health care to youth 17 years of age and younger. This may include an emergency mental health assessment, referral to community services or recommendations for most suitable follow up care.
Often asked questions and answers:
Who will I see in the emergency department?
Often times, a child and family’s needs are met by the emergency room physician and social worker. Only those children who require a more specialized level of care are referred to the mental health team. Not all patients presenting with mental health concerns are seen by the specialized mental health team.
Will I be seen by a psychiatrist?
Children and youth referred to the mental health team are initially seen by a clinician who can be either a nurse, social worker or psychologist. Clinicians review every patient’s situation with a psychiatrist to ensure a plan of care is well determined. Only in some cases will a psychiatrist directly see a patient in the emergency department.
How long will I stay in the emergency department?
Our goal is to ensure all children and families return safely home as soon as possible. It takes time to gather all necessary information and to coordinate follow up care. If required, some children are admitted to hospital before they can return home. However, most patients leave the emergency department within a number of hours of presenting to the emergency department.
Will I get faster access to community services by visiting the emergency department?
Access to most community services is managed by a central access agency in each region. The emergency department will ensure adequate communication with this central access agency who will determine prioritization based on the clinical information provided from the clinical team in the emergency department. This may or may not change the timing of accessing services.
As a parent and caregiver, what support will I receive in the emergency department?
MCH takes a family centered approach to all aspects of care; this means we involve families and caregivers as much as possible. This includes hearing your perspective and providing you with as much education as possible. Knowing that the emergency experience can be busy and overwhelming, we also offer weekly education sessions for families and caregivers. This open, drop-in session allows you to learn further on how to support youth and access valuable resources. Please see our flyer for more information.
I’m not sure if I need to go to the emergency department. Who else can I call?
If you are feeling unwell or unsafe, you need to let somebody know and get help. There are crisis services in the community that can assist you in finding the support you need at those times. Please visit the Helpful Links page for a list of community supports. If, however, you feel you need immediate help, you are advised to visit your local emergency department.