Home > Substance use and self-harm emergency department presentations during COVID19: evidence from a National Clinical Programme for Self-Harm.

Maguire, E and Kavalivdou, K and Bannan, Noreen and Doherty, Anne M and Jeffers, Anne (2022) Substance use and self-harm emergency department presentations during COVID19: evidence from a National Clinical Programme for Self-Harm. Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, Early online, https://doi.org/10.1017/ipm.2022.36.


Introduction: Given the evidence that drinking patterns and self-harm hospital presentations have changed during COVID-19, this study aimed to examine any change in self-harm and suicide-related ideation presentations, together with any possible contribution made by alcohol or substance misuse, to Irish Emergency Departments in 2020, compared with 2018 and 2019. 

Methods: A population-based cohort with self-harm and suicide-related ideation presenting to Irish hospitals derived from the National Clinical Programme for Self-Harm was analysed. Descriptive analyses were conducted based on sociodemographic variables and types of presentation for the period January to August 2020 and compared with the same period in 2018 and 2019. Binomial regression analyses were performed to investigate the independent effect of demographic characteristics and pre/during COVID-19 periods on the use of substances as contributory factors in the self-harm and suicide-related ideation presentations. 

Results: 12,075 presentations due to self-harm and suicide-related ideation were recorded for the periods January-August 2018-2020 across nine emergency departments. The COVID-19 year was significantly associated with substances contributing to self-harm and suicide-related ideation ED presentations. No changes in the demographic characteristics were found for those with self-harm or suicide-related ideation across the years. Suicide-related ideation seemed to be increased after May 2020 compared with previous years. In terms of self-harm episodes with comorbid drug and alcohol overdose and poisoning, these were significantly increased in January-August 2020, compared with previous timepoints. 

Conclusion: An increase in suicide-related ideation and substance-related self-harm presentations may indicate longer term effects of the pandemic and its relevant restrictions. Future studies might explore whether those presenting with ideation will develop a risk of suicide in post-pandemic periods.

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