Home > One year of psychiatric presentations to a hospital emergency department during COVID-19.

Hartnett, Yvonne and Alshurafa, Khadija and McAndrew, Joseph and Daly, Darren and Alsaffar, Mohamed and Cotter, David and Cannon, Mary and MacHale, Siobhan and Murphy, Kieran C and Barry, Helen (2022) One year of psychiatric presentations to a hospital emergency department during COVID-19. Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, Early online, pp. 1-7. https://doi.org/10.1017/ipm.2022.6.

OBJECTIVES
To examine the impact of the first full year of the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions on the volume and nature of psychiatric presentations to an emergency department (ED) in a large academic hospital.

METHODS
Anonymised clinical data on psychiatric presentations to the ED were collected for the 52-week period from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and compared with corresponding 1 year periods in 2019 and 2018.

RESULTS
There was a significant increase in psychiatric presentations overall to the ED during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to previous years, in contrast to a reduction in total presentations for all other specialties. There was a marked increase in psychiatric presentations of those below 18 years, and in the 30-39 years and 40-49 years age groups, but a decrease in the 18-29 years group. There was a significant increase in anxiety disorder presentations but a decrease in alcohol related presentations. There was no significant change observed in the rates of presentations for self-harm or suicidal ideation.

CONCLUSIONS
Psychiatric presentations to the ED have increased during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in contrast to a decrease in presentations for other medical specialties, with this increase being driven by out-of-hours presentations. The fourfold increase in presentations of young people below the age of 18 years to the ED with mental health difficulties is an important finding and suggests a disproportionate burden of psychological strain placed on this group during the pandemic.


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