In the last 10 years the access to Bambino Gesù due to suicidal ideation o attempted suicide have increased exponentially, with a particular 75% increase in the 2 years of the pandemic versus the previous two years. From 369 cases in 2018-2019, to 649 in 2020-2021: on average one case per day. This is documented by the data recorded by the Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital on the eve of the World Suicide Prevention Day that, according to the analysis of the US Center for Disease Control, accounts for the second cause of death among young people aged between 15 and 25. In order to face this phenomenon, the Hospital – being the Regional reference Center for psychiatric emergencies – has activated a service devoted to support and prevention of suicide in developmental age, in collaboration with the LHUs of the territory. The service also includes an always active telephone line for urgent psychological advice.
THE CAUSES OF
THE GROWING TREND
Several scientific studies report that the incidence of suicide and the prevalence of suicidal behaviors has increased both in some European countries and in the USA, especially among adolescents. This growth seems to be linked to a general growing trend in mood disorders in developmental age in high-income Countries. The correlation between severe depression and attempted suicide among young and very young people is confirmed by recent studies. The impact of the COVID pandemic on the mental health of children and adolescents is also documented: internationally, the prevalence of cases of depression and anxiety disorders has doubled in 2021. “Early identification with accurate diagnosis and treatment of depression – underlines prof. Stefano Vicari, head of Neuropsychiatry of Childhood and Adolescence at Bambino Gesù – are preventive interventions of primary importance to reduce the risk of suicide among young people”.
THE DATA FROM
In the last decade, neuropsychiatric counseling at the first aid unit of the Bambino Gesù Department of Emergency, Admission and General Pediatrics has increased by 11 times, from 155 to 1,824 cases. Particularly, urgent consulting for suicidal ideation, attempted suicide and self-inflicted injuries in young people aged between 9 and 17 have increased by almost 40 times (from 12 to 449 cases).
The restrictive measures during the COVID pandemic had a major impact on young and very young people, leading to an increase in requests for help. In the previous two-year period (2018-19), admissions to the first aid units for suicidal ideation, attempted suicide and self-inflicted injuries amounted to 464. In 2020 and 2021 this number reached 752, with an over 60% increase. If we only consider either conceived or attempted suicide, the increase compared to the previous two years exceeds 75%. In the last 2 years there have been 477 cases of suicidal ideation (+ 88% compared to 2018-19), 172 attempted suicides (+ 50%) and 103 self-inflicted injuries (+ 8%). Over 80% of attempted suicides are carried out by girls and teenagers; the average age of those who try to put an end to their lives is 15 years, the youngest being 9 years old.
The COVID pandemic marked a watershed in terms of admissions to Neuropsychiatry, raising from 338 in 2019 to 492 in 2021, with a 45% increase. Particularly, hospitalizations in Neuropsychiatry for self-inflicted injuries increased from 30 to over 60% of the total.
THE SUPPORT SERVICES
PROVIDED BY BAMBINO GESÙ
To meet to help requests of young people and their families, the Neuropsychiatry of Childhood and Adolescence Department of Bambino Gesù has set up a high-level clinical pathway to deal with self-destructive behavior and prevention of suicide in developmental age. This service was launched in collaboration with several LHUs of the Lazio Region, and favors the gradual passage of critically ill patients from the Hospital to Territorial Neuropsychiatry of Childhood and Adolescence Centers to ensure therapeutic continuity
The Service provided by the Bambino Gesù Children’ Hospital also includes a phone line, “Lucy”, 06.6859.2265, for urgent psychological counselling. This line is active 24h.
«Depression and anxiety disorders among very young people have been increasing exponentially for years. The pandemic has only exacerbated the phenomenon» adds prof. Vicari. “The emergency that affects our children is fought by allocating more resources to prevention tools and to the promotion of mental health. This pathway involves schools as places that breed positive relationships, and territorial facilities that need to identify the malaise and provide support to families. The suggestion for parents is to devote time to their children, pay attention to the signs of malaise and, in case of changes in behavior, ask for help without any fear. Mental illnesses, if addressed at the right time, are highly likely to recovery».