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Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Suicide and Self Harm among Patients Presenting to the Emergency Department of a Teaching Hospital in Nepal

By Roshana Shrestha, Shisir Siwakoti, Saumya Singh, Anmol Purna Shrestha

Posted 20 Oct 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.16.20213769

BackgroundThe COVID-19 pandemic is a global challenge that is not just limited to the physical consequences but also a significant degree of a mental health crisis. Self-harm (SH) and suicide are its extreme effects. The aim of this study was to provide an overview of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the occurrence and clinical profile of suicide and SH in our ED. MethodsThis is a cross-sectional observational study conducted in the ED of a tertiary care center. Records of all fatal and nonfatal SH patients presenting to the ED during the lockdown period (March 24-June 23, 2020; Period1), matching periods in the previous year (March 24-June 23,2019; Period 2) and 3 months period prior (December 24 2019-March 23, 2020; Period 3) was included by searching the electronic medical record (EMR) system. The prevalence and the clinical profile of the patients were compared between these three periods. ResultsA total of 125 (periods 1=55, 2=38, and 3=32) suicide and SH cases were analyzed. The cases of suicide/SH had increased by 44% and 71.9% during the lockdown period in comparison to the period 2 and 3. Organophosphate poisoning was the most common mode. Females were predominant in all three periods with a mean age of 32 (95%CI: 29.3-34.7). There was a significant delay in arrival of the patients in period 1 (p-value=0.045) with increased hospital admission (p-value =0.009) and in-hospital mortality (18.2% vs 2.6 % and 3.1%) (p-value=.001). ConclusionWe found an increase in patients presenting with suicide and SH in our ED during the pandemic which is likely to reflect an increased prevalence of mental illness in the community. We hope that the result will prime all mental health care stakeholders to initiate mental health screening and intervention for the vulnerable population during this period of crisis.

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