Health

Remarkable: Suicide rates fell during the pandemic

During the first two quarters of the 2020 corona year, fewer people committed suicide in 21 countries. We know this from a study by the British scientific journal The Lancet. In our country, too, the figures seemed to fall slightly, although some warn of a backlash.

Concerns in Australia around May 2020, during the first global lockdowns. The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is issuing a warning about the mental health of its citizens. A Hong Kong study from 2003 showed that the number of suicides rose sharply in the city during the outbreak of SARS, another coronavirus.

The AMA feared that there could be 25 percent more suicides during the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of additional victims could well exceed that of the virus itself. Fortunately, this turned out not to be the case at all. In fact, statistics from the Australian states of Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales show that there were fewer suicides between April and September in 2020 than during the same period in 2019.

In fact, the decline in suicide rates appears to be a global trend. According to a study by the British scientific journal The Lancet there was less suicide in 21 countries. That study compared the number of suicides that occurred in the first two quarters of 2020 and those of the same period last year. There were 10 percent fewer suicides than governments expected during that period and 7 percent fewer suicides the year before.

What about countries that traditionally struggle with suicide such as Japan and… Belgium

In Japan, the number of suicides soared towards the end of 2020. In October there were even more suicides than there were victims from Covid-19, exactly as was feared by experts. The situation eventually became so dramatic that the country was forced to appoint a ‘Minister of Loneliness’.

Some important nuances: Suicide rates in Japan have been rising every year since 2009. In the first quarter of 2021, the level of suicides even dropped to pre-pandemic levels.

In Belgium: Figures also seem to be declining slightly in our country. Organizations in our country fighting suicide saw the number of suicide attempts stagnate and even weaken during the lockdowns, which was very surprising. Still, experts from those organizations warn of a backlash this year.

Also an important nuance: In developing countries, which were generally not included in the study of The Lancet, suicide rates often increase. In Malawi, East Africa, there were no fewer than 52 percent more suicides in 2020 than in 2019. There is not even a lockdown or serious outbreak of Covid-19 in Malawi, but the economy of that country was hit hard by the pandemic.

In urgent need of a conversation or does suicide sometimes seem the only solution? Do you know someone who is thinking of suicide or do you receive signals or suicidal thoughts from someone close to you? There is someone ready for you at the Suicide Line1813.

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