Study finds suicides have decreased during the Covid-19 pandemic
Results from the first study to examine suicides in countries around the world during the Covid-19 pandemic found that suicides decreased or remained unchanged, this despite the pandemic having profound mental health consequences for many people.
The study sourced data from 21 countries high-income and upper-middle-income countries in the early months of the pandemic, between April 1 and July 31, 2020.
Researchers from the study said their findings could be explained by some of the steps that governments took in the various countries. For instance, many countries mental health services were increased or adapted to mitigate the potential impact of lockdown measures on mental health and suicide.
The pandemic might have also heightened some factors that are known to protect against suicide, such as community support of vulnerable individuals and a beneficial collective feeling of ‘being in it together’.
While South Africa’s suicide statistics were not included in the study, Prof Jason Bantjes from Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences was part the International Covid-19 Suicide Prevention Research Collaboration (ICSPRC) that conducted the research.
“The lack of reliable current suicide data from low- and middle-income countries makes it impossible to know what is happening in many parts of the world. It is too soon to know what impact the pandemic has had on suicide rates in South Africa, but we should not assume suicide rates will necessarily increase until we have seen and properly analysed the data.”
“We need to continue to monitor suicide statistics in South Africa so that we can make informed evidence-based decisions about how to respond apriority,” said Bantjes.
Lead author and director of the Centre for Mental Health at the University of Melbourne, Australia, Professor Jane Pirkis said while the results have been positive, people should remain vigilant and be ready to respond to longer-term mental health and economic effects of the pandemic.
“Many countries in our study put in place additional mental health supports and financial safety nets, both of which might have buffered any early adverse effects of the pandemic. There is a need to ensure that efforts that might have kept suicide rates down until now are continued.”
“In high-income and upper-middle-income countries, suicide numbers have remained largely unchanged or declined in the early months of the pandemic compared with the expected levels based on the pre-pandemic period.”— The Lancet Psychiatry (@TheLancetPsych) April 13, 2021
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