Objective: The objective of this study was to examine whether emergency department (ED) assessments of depressive and acute stress symptoms after an episode of interpersonal violence are associated with future risk behaviors, reinjury and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in adolescents.
Methods: Three hundred ninety-four injured adolescents (age range, 12-17 years) were assessed for depressive symptoms, acute stress symptoms and self-reported risk behaviors either during or immediately after an ED visit (T1). One hundred fifty-eight adolescents completed the follow-up assessment between 6 and 18 months later (T2), during which they were assessed again for self-reported risk behaviors, PTSD symptoms and reinjury.
Results: Depression ratings at T1 predicted risk behaviors at T2, controlling for risk behaviors at T1. Ratings of depression and acute stress at T1 predicted PTSD symptoms at T2 but did not significantly predict the self-reported incidence of violent reinjury at T2.
Conclusions: Assessment of depressive symptoms in adolescents who present to the ED after a violent event can help identify those in need of further and more formal assessments as well as, possibly, interventions to prevent future risk behaviors. Identification of depressive and acute stress symptoms can also help identify those violently injured youth who report subsequent PTSD symptoms.