Suicidal behaviour and non-suicidal self-injury in children and adolescents seen at an Italian paediatric emergency department

Laura Castaldo, Giulia Serra, Simone Piga, Antonino Reale, Stefano Vicari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction. Increasing rates of non-fatal self-harm amongst adolescents represent growing concern. The objective of the study is to describe non-fatal self-harm – including suicidal behaviour (SB), suicidal ideation (SI) and non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) – observed at an Italian paediatric emergency department (ED). Methods. Retrospective analysis of the clinical records of patients admitted to ED from 2011 to 2016, who underwent child psychiatry consultation (CPc). We analyzed: rates of CPc for SB, SI and NSSI; risk factors for SB and SI in patients admitted to the hospital’s Child Psychiatry Unit after a CPc; and, correlations between NSSI and SB/SI. Results. The rate of CPc for SB, SI and NSSI switched from 7.7% in 2011 to 19% in 2016, with a statistically significant increase over the years (p < 0.001), a 2.2:1 female/ male ratio, and an average age of 15.5 ± 1.8 years. SB consisted mainly in drug poisoning (53%), with a significant prevalence in female. Mood disorder was identified in 82.5% of patients hospitalized for SB or SI. Substance abuse was more frequently found in patients admitted for SB when compared to the SI group. Almost half (48%) of the patients admitted for SB or SI reported a current or lifelong history of NSSI. In patients admitted for SB or SI, 3 factors were significantly and independently associated with NSSI: being female, substance abuse, and more severe depressive symptoms. Conclusions. Between 2011 and 2016, there was a significant growing need for CP consultations for suicidal behaviours, mainly in female adolescents. The subjects admitted for SI or SB, who also presented NSSI, were mainly substance abusers, and presented with more severe depressive symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-314
Number of pages12
JournalAnnali dell'Istituto Superiore di Sanita
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Non-suicidal self-injury
  • Risk factor
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal behaviour

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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