Incidence of deliberate self-harm burns during a pandemic; a Western Australian perspective

Dr Dylan Prunster1, Dr Peter Meier1, Mr Graeme Mcleoud1, Dr. Helen Douglas1, Dr Anna Goodwin-Walters1

1Fiona Stanley Hospital – State Burns Service of Western Australia , Perth, Australia



It has been noted that burns admissions throughout the world have decreased as a result of lockdowns since the commencement of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is in contrast to presentation to emergency departments due to deliberate self-harm (DSH) We assess admissions due to DSH to the sole adult burns service in Western Australia during this period.

Materials and Methods

Data were retrospectively collected on all patients admitted with DSH burns for the first 12 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, March 2020 to February 2021, and the preceding 12 month period from the Western Australia State Burns Centre database. The total number of patients, number of admissions,  average total burn surface area (TBSA) and average admission length were compared.


During the 12 months since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, 15 patients had 22 admissions compared to 6 patients resulting in 15 admissions from the preceding 12 months. The average length of admission pre and post COVID-19 was 4.9 and 6.6 days respectively. With average TBSA 4.7% and 3.8% pre and post COVID-19


Western Australia observed a mild rise in DSH burn admission during the first 12 months of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to a control period of the 12 months immediately preceding. Using length of admission and TBSA % as a proxy for burn severity there was not a significant increase in the complexity of the burns admitted. Given Western Australia’s limited time spent in lockdown restrictions to date and low rates of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality this is an expected result.


Farroha A. Effects of COVID-19 pandemic on burns epidemiology. Burns. 2020;46(6):1466. doi:10.1016/j.burns.2020.05.022

Henry N, Parthiban S, Farroha A. The effect of COVID-19 lockdown on the incidence of deliberate self-harm injuries presenting to the emergency room. Int J Psychiatry Med. 2021;56(4):266-277. doi:10.1177/0091217420982100


Dr Dylan Prunster is a surgical service registrar working within the West Australian Health Department with a keen interest in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. He obtained his primary medical qualification from the University of Western Australia and subsequently undertook an internship and residency at Royal Perth Hospital.

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