Suicides decreased in Canada amid sudden pandemic uncertainties last year.
Despite a current suicide crisis, a new report shows promising results. Even amid a sudden lockdown and social isolation, new data suggests there was a 32 percent drop in suicides in Canada in 2020. Of course, the coronavirus has led to increased rates of anxiety and depression, among other mental health conditions, worldwide which are closely connected with suicidality. Any decrease in this rate is good news as the world continues to struggle with this “new normal.”
Moreover, in 2020, “This is the lowest suicide mortality rate in Canada in more than a decade,” the study, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, indicates. Lead author, Roger McIntyre of the University of Toronto added, “It’s a remarkable finding, that during this awful time, we saw a decrease. This tells us there are things that we can do [to further decrease the rate]. We don’t need to accept suicide rates. We need to rethink how we’re approaching this from a policy perspective.”
The research demonstrates that there are mental health treatment options and more proactive protocols that can be implemented not only in Canada but in other areas of the world, including the U.S.
McIntyre, a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology, and his co-authors primarily credited 2020 government funded financial incentives and an increase in mental health support. He said, “While experts stress that suicide risk is highly complex and never caused or reduced by one factor alone, sudden and abrupt economic insecurity has been associated with mental health decline and suicide. When you are faced with economic duress or shock – and this was an economic shock in the first degree – it does significantly worsen measures of security, including financial, housing and food. That leads to distress.”
The study, which pulled data from Statistics Canada data on suicide rates over more than a decade, reported, “Our results suggest that government interventions that broadly aim to reduce measures of insecurity (economic, housing, health), and timely psychiatric services should be prioritized as part of a national suicide reduction strategy, not only during but after termination of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Government aid that was adopted in the beginning stages of the coronavirus, including “the Canada Emergency Response Benefit that offered employed persons $2,000 a month for up to 28 weeks, the Canada Emergency Student Benefit, which provided $1,250 a month for 16 weeks, as well as provisions for small business, mortgage leniency for homeowners and eviction bans for renters,” was cited as some of the critical reasons the rate declined during an unprecedented time of uncertainty and an unexpected overhaul of daily routines. Canada also received funding for increased mental health services, as well as 24/7 crisis lines.
“Mental health has a relationship to suicide rate, but it’s not the be-all-end-all,” said Tyler Black, a Vancouver psychiatrist and suicidologist. “Many people who die of suicide – they’re having real-world problems, whether it’s relationship problems or financial problems or health problems. “There is not this strong relationship between thinking about it and dying, on the individual level.”
Black added, “Canada’s decrease in suicide rates mirrors that of other middle-to-high income countries. A meta-analysis published in April in The Lancet examined suicide trends in 21 countries during the early months of the pandemic.”