Adaptation of evidence-based suicide prevention strategies during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wasserman D, Iosue M, Wuestefeld A, Carli V

World Psychiatry 19 (3) 294-306 [2020-10-00; online 2020-09-16]

Suicide is preventable. Nevertheless, each year 800,000 people die of suicide in the world. While there is evidence indicating that suicide rates de-crease during times of crises, they are expected to increase once the immediate crisis has passed. The COVID-19 pandemic affects risk and pro-tective factors for suicide at each level of the socio-ecological model. Economic downturn, augmented barriers to accessing health care, increased access to suicidal means, inappropriate media reporting at the societal level; deprioritization of mental health and preventive activities at the community level; interpersonal conflicts, neglect and violence at the relationship level; unemployment, poverty, loneliness and hopelessness at the individual level: all these variables contribute to an increase of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, harmful use of alcohol, substance abuse, and ultimately suicide risk. Suicide should be prevented by strengthening universal strategies directed to the entire population, including mitigation of unemployment, poverty and inequalities; prioritization of access to mental health care; responsible media reporting, with information about available support; prevention of increased alcohol intake; and restriction of access to lethal means of suicide. Selective interventions should continue to target known vulnerable groups who are socio-economically disadvantaged, but also new ones such as first responders and health care staff, and the bereaved by COVID-19 who have been deprived of the final contact with loved ones and funerals. Indicated preventive strategies targeting individuals who display suicidal behaviour should focus on available pharmacological and psychological treatments of mental disorders, ensuring proper follow-up and chain of care by increased use of telemedicine and other digital means. The scientific community, health care professionals, politicians and decision-makers will find in this paper a systematic description of the effects of the pandemic on suicide risk at the society, community, family and individual levels, and an overview of how evidence-based suicide preventive interventions should be adapted. Research is needed to investigate which adaptations are effective and in which con-texts.

Type: Journal article

PubMed 32931107

DOI 10.1002/wps.20801

Crossref 10.1002/wps.20801

pmc: PMC7491639


Publications 7.1.2