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One year of psychiatric presentations to a hospital emergency department during COVID-19

journal contribution
posted on 18.05.2022, 16:37 authored by Yvonne HartnettYvonne Hartnett, Khadija Alshurafa, Joseph McAndrew, Darren Daly, Mohamed Alsaffar, David CotterDavid Cotter, Mary CannonMary Cannon, Siobhan Mac HaleSiobhan Mac Hale, Kieran MurphyKieran Murphy, Helen BarryHelen Barry

Objectives: To examine the impact of the first full year of the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions on the volume and nature of psychiatric presentations to an emergency department (ED) in a large academic hospital.

Methods: Anonymised clinical data on psychiatric presentations to the ED were collected for the 52-week period from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and compared with corresponding 1 year periods in 2019 and 2018.

Results: There was a significant increase in psychiatric presentations overall to the ED during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to previous years, in contrast to a reduction in total presentations for all other specialties. There was a marked increase in psychiatric presentations of those below 18 years, and in the 30-39 years and 40-49 years age groups, but a decrease in the 18-29 years group. There was a significant increase in anxiety disorder presentations but a decrease in alcohol related presentations. There was no significant change observed in the rates of presentations for self-harm or suicidal ideation.

Conclusions: Psychiatric presentations to the ED have increased during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in contrast to a decrease in presentations for other medical specialties, with this increase being driven by out-of-hours presentations. The fourfold increase in presentations of young people below the age of 18 years to the ED with mental health difficulties is an important finding and suggests a disproportionate burden of psychological strain placed on this group during the pandemic.



This article has been published in a revised form in Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution or re-use. © copyright holder.

Published Citation

Hartnett Y. et al. One year of psychiatric presentations to a hospital emergency department during COVID-19. Ir J Psychol Med. 2022:1-7

Publication Date

14 March 2022

PubMed ID



  • Beaumont Hospital
  • Psychiatry

Research Area

  • Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders


Cambridge University Press (CUP)


  • Accepted Version (Postprint)