CM – The suicide deaths did not increase internationally during the first wave of the pandemic


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The risk of suicidal death in rich countries did not increase during the first wave of the pandemic, an international study found.

The study of 21 high and middle income countries published in the Lancet Psychiatry Journal found no evidence an increased risk of suicide in the spring and early summer of last year.

The researchers compared the number of suicide deaths in the countries between April 1 and July 31, 2020 with the number that would have been expected based on previous years. and found no evidence of an increase in any of the countries.

There were fewer suicide deaths than expected in 12 countries or regions, including Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Ecuador and parts of Canada, Australia and the United States.

Ireland was not included in the study because the way suicide deaths are recorded here – a lengthy process that involves months of investigation – means that information is not available in real time at the national level.

Evidence available in Cork, however, suggests that the trend within this region is in line with the patterns seen in the study internationally.

Interviewed by The Journal told Professor Ella Arensman – study co-author, chief scientist at the National Suicide Research Foundation and Ireland’s first professor of public mental health – that monitoring patterns and providing mental health support are central. as well as tackling misinformation about suicide numbers.

Professor Arensman said 16 of the countries surveyed are high income countries where “we can see and expect improved or improved infrastructure when it comes to mental health needs and mental health support but also the capacity and flexibility to adapt mental health health services in the event of a pandemic or other public health emergency « .

 » For example, if you are in a low-income country, the infrastructure is very limited and there is also no flexibility to adjust if a public health emergency arises, « said Professor Arensman.

Between April and July 2020, there was no evidence of one in the countries covered by the study Increase in suicide.

Professor Arensman said the researchers believe i as there is likely to be a link to the adaptability of mental health services in these countries.

« My colleagues and I would be concerned at this stage about people with long-term mental illness who may not have personal support or intervention for a very long time have maintained mental health, « said Professor Arensman.

 » Continuous monitoring with real-time suicide data is the key message as what we see in wave 1 may not be the same for wave 2 or wave 3 of Covid  » she said.

Countries, including Ireland, need mental and community-based services that are ready to respond to people with urgent mental health needs, she said.

Ireland has a specific procedure that is followed must before it is determined that a death was a suicide.

The cause of death in suspected suicide wi rd determined by an examination by the coroner, which is only carried out at least six weeks after the death of the person. Investigations can take approximately six months to reach a verdict.

A pathologist must prepare a full pathology report for Gardaí and the coroner, which can take up to three months.

Between the occurrence of a death and the There is a gap in time for the Central Statistics Officer (CSO) to publish data on suicidal deaths so that the process can be followed.

The latest official figures on the number of suicidal deaths at the national level in Ireland are for 2018, and the final figures including late registrations are only available for 2017 and previous years. Preliminary figures are available for 2019.

Professor Arensman said that the implementation of a real-time system at the national level could enable improved monitoring of patterns, especially during a public health crisis.

A regional system was established in Cork in 2018 developed between the NSRF and the HSE, which collects data on suspected suicide cases within 10 to 14 days of the person’s death.

« Until the end of last year there was no evidence of an increase in Co Cork compared to the same period last year » said Professor Arensman.

She pointed out that the data are regional, not national, but the pattern in Cork « is consistent with this international evidence, indicating a real trend ».

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Misinformation about suicide cases can be harmful to people with severe depression or anxiety, said Professor Arensman.

« In April, May or June there were sometimes very worrying headlines in the media – people facing an increase in suicide « She said.

 » These data clearly emphasize the importance of the media and other stakeholders in the general public health area to keep the data under review. « 

Last year, some allegations made in social media made significant strides after it indicated that a certain number of people had died of suicide during a certain week or month as a result of the pandemic.

These claims – which were not supported by any evidence – have been debunked by The Journal.

« Regardless of whether it’s social media or mainstream media, my era Exactly the same guidelines apply because the companies that manage social media platforms have an ethical obligation, « she said.

 » For them, the negative headlines would be part of the negative thinking and cycle, « said Professor Arensman .

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