The following is excerpted from an online article posted by MedicalExpress.
Data from 44 hospitals in 26 states show that suicide or self-injury and depressive disorders were the primary mental health reasons children received emergency department (ED) or hospital inpatient care after statewide school closures were enacted during the first part of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A study published in the May 25 issue of the journal Psychiatric Services validates findings from earlier public health surveillance data suggesting a disproportionate rise in ED visits for suicide—especially among adolescents and females—but goes further to examine percent changes in ED and hospital discharges by type of psychiatric disorder, said Dr. Bonnie Zima, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neurosciences and Human Behavior, the article’s lead author.
In this large retrospective study, researchers examined the percent changes in ED discharges and hospital stays between 2019 and 2020, matching 36-week time intervals corresponding to spring through fall of both years and capturing data for children ages 3 to 17.
“Our study found that the declines in ED and hospital discharges for primary psychiatric diagnoses after statewide school closure orders were two to three times less than those for general medical conditions. Suicide or self-injury and depressive disorders continued to account for more than 50% of all acute mental health care encounters before and after the statewide school closures,” Zima said. “Hospitalizations for suicide, psychosis, and eating disorders substantially increased after statewide COVID-19 school closure orders. By fall 2020, hospitalizations for suicide or self-injury rose by 41.7%, with a 43.8% and 49.2% rise among teens and girls.”
“Our findings identify drivers of the disproportionate rise in acute mental health care encounters that occurred during the time intervals corresponding to the abrupt shift to remote learning, followed by summer vacation and the start of a new school year,” said Zima, professor-in-residence, UCLA Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.