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Disclosures: Oberender reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.
May 18, 2022
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ICU admissions for self-harm increase among adolescents during COVID-19 pandemic

Disclosures: Oberender reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.
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A significant increase in ICU admissions for adolescents aged 12 to 17 years with deliberate self-harm was reported in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study in JAMA Network Open.

“The COVID pandemic did not spare children and young people and was associated with a significant mental health burden in this vulnerable population,” Felix Oberender, MBBS, PhD, director of the pediatric intensive care unit at Monash Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, told Healio. “We believe this is an important perspective for a comprehensive view of the public health crisis.”

Corrigan C, et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.11692.
Corrigan C, et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.11692.

Oberender and colleagues conducted a national, multicenter study using a data subset from the binational Australian and New Zealand pediatric intensive care registry, which included 200,000 medical records with contributions from all eight Australian specialist, university-affiliated ICUs, as well as one neonatal pediatric ICU and 14 adult ICUs. The study period lasted from Jan. 1, 2015, through June 30, 2021.

Of 64,145 patients aged 17 years and younger identified through the registry, 813 children and adolescents (median age, 15.1 years; 67.7% girls) were admitted to the ICU for deliberate self-harm.

At the onset of the pandemic, monthly incidence of deliberate self-harm admissions increased from 7.2 admissions per 1 million children and adolescents in March 2020 to a peak of 11.4 admissions by August 2020 (OR of deliberate self-harm ICU admissions on or after vs. before March 2020 = 4.84; 95% CI, 1.09-21.53).

Conversely, the rate of all-cause ICU admissions per 1 million children and adolescents decreased from a monthly median of 150.9 to 91.7 in April 2020.

According to Oberender, the study did not identify factors that may have caused the rise in deliberate self-harm among pediatric ICU admissions.

“We did not make comparisons with jurisdictions around the world that had less robust approaches to public health but experienced the stresses and burdens associated with high rates of COVID-related disease and death,” he said.