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Despite concern that the global pandemic will worsen depression and suicide rates, there remain little data on its actual effect. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on suicidal ingestions reported to the California Poison Control System (CPCS). This was a cross-sectional comparison of suicidal ingestions reported to the CPCS during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic compared to suicidal ingestions reported during the same period in 2018 and 2019. The CPCS received 19,607 call for suicidal ingestions during the study periods, of which 13,800 were in the pre-COVID era (2018 and 2019) and 5,807 were in the COVID era. The median (IQR) number of suicidal ingestions per month decreased from 2,286 (2,240-2,364) to 1,940 (1,855-2,045; p = 0.02). This decrease was consistent and significant across all age groups except those age 70 or older. Ingestions without adverse events decreased by 101 cases/month (95% confidence interval [CI] = 136.8 to 65; p = 0.0003), minor outcomes decreased by 156.6 cases/month (95% CI = 226.2 to 87.1; p = 0.001), and moderate outcomes decreased by 96 cases/month (95% CI = 143.9 to 48.1; p = 0.00021). Major outcomes decreased from 793 (4.99%) cases in the pre-COVID era to 315 (4.60%) cases in the COVID era (risk ratio = 0.92, 95% CI = 0.81 to 1.05). The number of deaths decreased by 3.7 cases/month (95% CI = -8.3 to 0.92, p = 0.10). Despite concern for worsening suicidality, calls regarding suicidal ingestions to the nation's largest poison control center decreased during the COVID era compared to the pre-COVID era. This study provides evidence that the pandemic's effects on modern society remain difficult to predict. Further effort is needed to understand how pandemic will affect American's mental health. © 2021 Society for Academic Emergency Medicine.


Sam T Ontiveros, Michael D Levine, F L Cantrell, Caroline Thomas, Alicia B Minns. Despair in the time of COVID: A look at suicidal ingestions reported to the California Poison Control System during the pandemic. Academic emergency medicine : official journal of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine. 2021 Mar;28(3):300-305

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PMID: 33423363

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