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Pandemic Saw Rise in Youth Emergency Visits for Attempted Suicide

By Lori Solomon HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, March 29, 2023 -- Emergency department visits for attempted suicides rose globally among youth during the pandemic, according to a review published online March 9 in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Sheri Madigan, Ph.D., from the University of Calgary in Canada, and colleagues conducted a systematic literature review and meta-analysis to compare rates of pediatric emergency department visits for attempted suicide, self-harm, and suicidal ideation before and during the pandemic in those younger than 19 years of age.

Based on 42 studies (11.1 million emergency visits; 18 countries), the researchers observed good evidence of an increase in emergency department visits for attempted suicide during the pandemic (rate ratio [RR], 1.22; 90 percent confidence interval [CI], 1.08 to 1.37), modest evidence of an increase in emergency department visits for suicidal ideation (RR, 1.08; 90 percent CI, 0.93 to 1.25), and good evidence for only a slight change in self-harm (RR, 0.96; 90 percent CI, 0.89 to 1.04). For other mental illness, rates of emergency department visits showed very good evidence of a decline (RR, 0.81; 90 percent CI, 0.74 to 0.89), as well as strong evidence of fewer pediatric visits for all health indications (RR, 0.68; 90 percent CI, 0.62 to 0.75). The combination of rates for attempted suicide and suicidal ideation showed good evidence of an increase in emergency department visits among girls (RR, 1.39; 90 percent CI, 1.04 to 1.88), but only modest evidence of an increase among boys (RR, 1.06; 90 percent CI, 0.92 to 1.24). Among older children (mean age, 16.3 years), self-harm showed good evidence of an increase (RR, 1.18; 90 percent CI, 1.00 to 1.39), but among younger children (mean age, 9.0 years), there was modest evidence of a decrease (RR, 0.85; 90 percent CI, 0.70 to 1.05).

"In future pandemics, increased resourcing in some emergency department settings would help to address their expected increase in visits for acute mental distress among children and adolescents," the authors write.

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