Background: Among United States children and adolescents aged 10 to 19, suicide is the second leading cause of death and a major contributor of youth death worldwide. Factors which increase suicide risk include psychosocial stressors such as loss of daily structure and social isolation as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent quarantines. This is an exploratory study, comparing patient characteristics of youth presenting for suicidal ideation, self-harm, and attempt, seen during the same period in 2019 and 2020.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective chart review of 107 patients who presented to Boston Children’s Hospital from June 1st to 30th (55 patients from 2019 and 52 patients from 2020; 80 females and 27 males). All patients endorsed suicidal ideation, self-harm, or suicide attempt. T-tests were utilized to compare number of patients, presentation, severity, and length of stay from 2019 to 2020.
Results: Patient demographics for both samples were very similar overall. Though the volume of patients were mostly the same from 2019 to 2020, the average length of stay doubled from 2019 to 2020. Follow-up analyses will further explore potential factors which may have contributed to this change (i.e., presenting problem and severity) from 2019 to 2020.
Conclusions: Early results suggest a significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on youth with suicidal ideation and/or attempt, and their treatment at the medical inpatient level of care. Future research will explore the impact across a longer period of time in 2019 and 2020. It will also explore other factors and patient characteristics (e.g., method of attempt and positive toxicology screen). Based on the current research and anecdotal experience of providers, it is predicted that this impact will strengthen as the year progresses and factors such as social isolation continue.