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The COVID-19 pandemic has harmed many people's mental health globally. Whilst the evidence generated thus far from high-income countries regarding the pandemic's impact on suicide rates is generally reassuring, we know little about its influence on this outcome in lower- and middle-income countries or among marginalised and disadvantaged people. There are some signals for concern regarding the pandemic's potentially unequal impact on suicide rates, with some of the affected demographic subgroups and regions being at elevated risk before the pandemic began. However, the evidence-base for this topic is currently sparse, and studies conducted to date have generally not taken account of pre-pandemic temporal trends. The collection of accurate, complete and comparable data on suicide rate trends in ethnic minority and low-income groups should be prioritised. The vulnerability of low-income groups will likely be exacerbated further by the current energy supply and cost-of-living crises in many countries. It is therefore crucial that reassuring messaging highlighting the stability of suicide rates during the pandemic does not lead to complacency among policymakers.
Evidence on the impact of the pandemic on healthcare presentations for self-harm has accumulated rapidly. However, existing reviews do not include studies published beyond 2020.
To systematically review evidence on presentations to health services following self-harm during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A comprehensive search of databases (WHO COVID-19 database; Medline; medRxiv; Scopus; PsyRxiv; SocArXiv; bioRxiv; COVID-19 Open Research Dataset, PubMed) was conducted. Studies published from 1 January 2020 to 7 September 2021 were included. Study quality was assessed with a critical appraisal tool.
Fifty-one studies were included: 57% (29/51) were rated as ‘low’ quality, 31% (16/51) as ‘moderate’ and 12% (6/51) as ‘high-moderate’. Most evidence (84%, 43/51) was from high-income countries. A total of 47% (24/51) of studies reported reductions in presentation frequency, including all six rated as high-moderate quality, which reported reductions of 17–56%. Settings treating higher lethality self-harm were overrepresented among studies reporting increased demand. Two of the three higher-quality studies including study observation months from 2021 reported reductions in self-harm presentations. Evidence from 2021 suggests increased numbers of presentations among adolescents, particularly girls.
Sustained reductions in numbers of self-harm presentations were seen into the first half of 2021, although this evidence is based on a relatively small number of higher-quality studies. Evidence from low- and middle-income countries is lacking. Increased numbers of presentations among adolescents, particularly girls, into 2021 is concerning. Findings may reflect changes in thresholds for help-seeking, use of alternative sources of support and variable effects of the pandemic across groups.
There is increasing evidence that domestic violence (DV) is an important risk factor for suicidal behaviour. The level of risk and its contribution to the overall burden of suicidal behaviour among men and women has not been quantified in South Asia. We carried out a large case-control study to examine the association between DV and self-poisoning in Sri Lanka.
Cases (N = 291) were patients aged ⩾18 years, admitted to a tertiary hospital in Kandy Sri Lanka for self-poisoning. Sex and age frequency matched controls were recruited from the hospital's outpatient department (N = 490) and local population (N = 450). Exposure to DV was collected through the Humiliation, Afraid, Rape, Kick questionnaire. Multivariable logistic regression models were conducted to estimate the association between DV and self-poisoning, and population attributable fractions were calculated.
Exposure to at least one type of DV within the previous 12 months was strongly associated with self-poisoning for women [adjusted OR (AOR) 4.08, 95% CI 1.60–4.78] and men (AOR 2.52, 95% CI 1.51–4.21), compared to those reporting no abuse. Among women, the association was strongest for physical violence (AOR 14.07, 95% CI 5.87–33.72), whereas among men, emotional abuse showed the highest risk (AOR 2.75, 95% CI 1.57–4.82). PAF% for exposure to at least one type of DV was 38% (95% CI 32–43) in women and 22% (95% CI 14–29) in men.
Multi-sectoral interventions to address DV including enhanced identification in health care settings, community-based strategies, and integration of DV support and psychological services may substantially reduce suicidal behaviour in Sri Lanka.
In September 2014, as part of a national initiative to increase access to liaison psychiatry services, the liaison psychiatry services at Bristol Royal Infirmary received new investment of £250 000 per annum, expanding its availability from 40 to 98 h per week. The long-term impact on patient outcomes and costs, of patients presenting to the emergency department with self-harm, is unknown.
To assess the long-term impact of the investment on patient care outcomes and costs, of patients presenting to the emergency department with self-harm.
Monthly data for all self-harm emergency department attendances between 1 September 2011 and 30 September 2017 was modelled using Bayesian structural time series to estimate expected outcomes in the absence of expanded operating hours (the counterfactual). The difference between the observed and expected trends for each outcome were interpreted as the effects of the investment.
Over the 3 years after service expansion, the mean number of self-harm attendances increased 13%. Median waiting time from arrival to psychosocial assessment was 2 h shorter (18.6% decrease, 95% Bayesian credible interval (BCI) −30.2% to −2.8%), there were 45 more referrals to other agencies (86.1% increase, 95% BCI 60.6% to 110.9%) and a small increase in the number of psychosocial assessments (11.7% increase, 95% BCI −3.4% to 28.5%) per month. Monthly mean net hospital costs were £34 more per episode (5.3% increase, 95% BCI −11.6% to 25.5%).
Despite annual increases in emergency department attendances, investment was associated with reduced waiting times for psychosocial assessment and more referrals to other agencies, with only a small increase in cost per episode.
The mental health of university students, especially medical students, is of growing concern in the UK.
To estimate the prevalence of mental disorder in health sciences students and investigate help-seeking behaviour.
An online survey from one English university (n = 1139; 53% response rate) collected data on depression (using the nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire), anxiety (seven-item Generalised Anxiety Disorder Assessment), alcohol use (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test), self-harm and well-being, as well as help seeking.
A quarter of the students reported symptoms of moderate/severe depression and 27% reported symptoms of moderate/severe anxiety. Only 21% of students with symptoms of severe depression had sought professional help; the main reason for not seeking help was fear of documentation on academic records.
The study highlights the extent of mental health problems faced by health science students. Barriers to help seeking due to concerns about fitness-to-practise procedures urgently need to be addressed to ensure that this population of students can access help in a timely fashion.
Declaration of interest
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