Psychiatric emergency admissions during and after COVID-19 lockdown: short-term impact and long-term implications on mental health

Julia Ambrosetti, Laura Macheret, Aline Folliet, Alexandre Wullschleger, Andrea Amerio, Andrea Aguglia, Gianluca Serafini, Paco Prada, Stefan Kaiser, Guido Bondolfi, François Sarasin, Alessandra Costanza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The ‘lockdown’ measures, adopted to restrict population movements in order to help curb the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, contributed to a global mental health crisis. Although several studies have extensively examined the impact of lockdown measures on the psychological well-being of the general population, little is known about long-term implications. This study aimed to identify changes in psychiatric emergency department (ED) admissions between two 8-week periods: during and immediately after lifting the lockdown. Methods: Socio-demographic and clinical information on 1477 psychiatric ED consultations at the University Hospital of Geneva (HUG) were retrospectively analyzed. Results: When grouped according to admission dates, contrary to what we expected, the post-lockdown group presented with more severe clinical conditions (as measured using an urgency degree index) compared to their lockdown counterparts. Notably, after the lockdown had been lifted we observed a statistically significant increase in suicidal behavior and psychomotor agitation and a decrease in behavior disorder diagnoses. Furthermore, more migrants arrived at the HUG ED after the lockdown measures had been lifted. Logistic regression analysis identified diagnoses of suicidal behavior, behavioral disorders, psychomotor agitation, migrant status, involuntary admission, and private resident discharge as predictors of post-lockdown admissions. Conclusions: Collectively, these findings can have implications concerning the prioritization of mental health care facilities and access for patients at risk of psychopathological decompensation in time of confinement policies, but above all, provide a foundation for future studies focusing on the long-term impact of the pandemic and its associated sanitary measures on mental health. Trial registration: Research Ethics Committee of Geneva, Registration number 2020–01510, approval date: 29 June 2020.

Original languageEnglish
Article number465
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Coronavirus
  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • Depression
  • Emergency department
  • Psychiatric admissions
  • Psychotic episode
  • Public mental health
  • Substance use disorder
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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