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The aim of this study was to estimate the prevalence of mental health disorders in an Australian general emergency department. A cross-sectional survey was used to screen a sample of 708 patients, using the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10). The mean age of participants was 50.2 years, and their mean K10 score was 19.96 (SD 7.83), with 24% categorized as having high or very high psychological distress. Seventeen per cent self-reported having a mental health issue. Post-probability calculations based on observed K10 scores estimated that 37% of participants had an actual mental health disorder. The results suggest the prevalence of mental health disorder is significantly higher in emergency department attendees than Australian population norms, supporting the contention that a substantial proportion of ED attendees has a mental health disorder that, in the majority of cases, is not investigated at this point of contact. There is potential to screen all emergency department attendees for the presence of mental health disorder; early identification of mental illness would enable early referral for treatment. However, if all patients are screened, then it is likely that more mental health conditions will be picked up. The implications for mental health nursing are that this may increase workload.

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Journal Article

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