Citation: Perera J, Wand T, Bein KJ, Chalkley D, Ivers R, Steinbeck KS, Shields R, Dinh MM. Presentations to NSW emergency departments with self-harm, suicidal ideation, or intentional poisoning, 2010–2014. Medical Journal of Australia 2018;208:348-53.



Objective: To evaluate population trends in presentations for mental health problems presenting to emergency departments (EDs) in New South Wales during 2010–2014, particularly patients presenting with suicidal ideation, self-harm, or intentional poisoning.

Design, setting and participants: This was a retrospective, descriptive analysis of linked Emergency Department Data Collection registry data for presentations to NSW public hospital EDs over five calendar years, 2010–2014. Patients were included if they had presented to an ED and a mental health-related diagnosis was recorded as the principal diagnosis.

Main outcome measures: Rates of mental health-related presentations to EDs by age group and calendar year, both overall and for the subgroups of self-harm, suicidal ideation and behaviour, and intentional poisoning presentations.

Results: 331 493 mental health-related presentations to 115 NSW EDs during 2010–2014 were analysed. The presentation rate was highest for 15–19-year-old patients (2014: 2167 per 100 000 population), but had grown most rapidly for 10–14-year-old children (13.8% per year). The combined number of presentations for suicidal ideation, self-harm, or intentional poisoning increased in all age groups, other than those aged 0–9 years; the greatest increase was for the 10–19-year-old age group (27% per year).

Conclusions: The rate of mental health presentations to EDs increased significantly in NSW between 2010 and 2014, particularly presentations by adolescents. Urgent action is needed to provide better access to adolescent mental health services in the community and to enhance ED models of mental health care. The underlying drivers of this trend should be investigated to improve mental health care.

About The Authors


Rebecca Ivers is Head, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales...


Kate Steinbeck is an endocrinologist and adolescent physician, and Professor and Medical Foundation ...