During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in March-April 2020, the government of Sri Lanka imposed a prohibitive, almost continuous lockdown in the form of a police-monitored curfew, where most people were not allowed to leave their homes. There have been reports that the lockdown resulted in the stockpiling of medicines and pesticides. An increase in the availability of poisoning methods, alongside increased contact/conflicts with family members may conceivably lead to an increase in hospital presentations for self-harm. Increasing financial worries amongst daily-wage earners are also likely to increase conflicts, thereby increase self-harm. Equally, due to fears over infection, and reduced transport facilities, self-harm attempts may have been less likely to present to hospital. The latter has serious consequences on the prognosis of self-poisoning patients, especially if pesticides (common methods in poorer/farming households) are ingested.
This study provides a first look at the impact of the lockdown measures on hospital presenting self-poisoning in Sri Lanka. The preliminary findings suggest that immediately post lockdown the numbers of hospital presentations dropped. The established surveillance system will now allow for the monitoring of self-harm as lockdown eases, and the long-term consequences of the pandemic are realised.