Canada’s suicide rate fell during first year of pandemic

Government financial benefits, increased mental health supports cited

Canada’s suicide rate fell 32 per cent last year to its lowest level in a decade, despite the isolation brought on by pandemic lockdowns, and despite a rise in mental distress.

A study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine calls it a remarkable finding during an awful time.

It credits government-funded financial benefits, and an increase in mental health supports for creating a sense of security.

Study authors say it shows there are things we can do; that we don’t have to accept suicide rates, just rethink how we approach the issue. They recommend government interventions aimed at reducing insecurity (economic, housing, health). The authors also say psychiatric services should be prioritized as part of a national suicide reduction strategy, not just during the pandemic, but after it as well.

The study noted that after the Great Recession, economies in Europe helped lessen the suicide risk by providing programs to help people affected by unemployment and financial insecurity.

Canada’s suicide rate decreased from 10.82 deaths per 100,000 population in the period of March 2019, to February 2020, to 7.34 deaths per 100,000 in the first 12 months of the pandemic. The country’s average monthly unemployment rate rose from 5.7 per cent in 2019 to 9.5 per cent in 2020.

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