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There’s growing concern about the far-reaching impact COVID-19 may have on people’s mental health across the globe, with the consequences likely to be present for longer and peak later than the actual pandemic.

Forty-two researchers from around the world, including Professor Keith Hawton from the Centre for Suicide Research, have formed the International COVID-19 Suicide Prevention Research Collaboration, convened by Professor David Gunnell from the University of Bristol.

An increase in suicides is not inevitable - provided preventive action is taken imminently, conclude the authors of an editorial published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Examples of interventions include:

  • Developing clear care pathways for people who are suicidal
  • Remote or digital assessments for people under mental health care
  • Staff training to support new ways of working
  • Support for helplines, providing easily accessible help for those who have lost a loved one to the virus
  • The provision of financial safety nets and labour market programmes
  • Dissemination of evidence-based online interventions
  • Guidance for the media on responsible reporting on suicide

  

Suicide is likely to become a more pressing concern as the pandemic spreads and has longer-term effects on the general population, the economy and vulnerable groups. Preventing suicide therefore needs urgent consideration. The response must capitalise on, but extend beyond, general mental health policies and practices. - Authors of The Lancet Psychiatry editorial.

 

The global group of experts said, "The pandemic will cause distress and leave many vulnerable. Mental health consequences are likely to be present for longer and peak later than the actual pandemic. However, research evidence and the experience of national strategies provide a strong basis for suicide prevention. We should be prepared to take the actions highlighted here, backed by vigilance and international collaboration."

The International COVID-19 Suicide Prevention Research Collaboration also reiterate how irresponsible media reporting of suicide can encourage further suicides. Journalists should ensure that reporting follows existing and COVID-19-specific guidelines.

 

 

 

To read the full editorial.

To find out more about the Centre for Suicide Research.

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