Statistical Update on Suicide in 2020

As mentioned in an earlier post entitled: “What can we learn from Emile Durkheim’s study of suicide in 2020?”, the level of suicide in 2020 has exploded. The attention brought by the post was Emile Durkheim’s analysis of suicide in terms of its social factors at the end of the 19th century and how it explained suicide rates in 2020.

My conclusion was that:

  1. Isolation caused by lockdowns lead to egoistic suicide because of a decrease in social interaction and integration.
  2. Rapid social changes such as mass unemployment generates anomic suicide.

However, there were not so many statistics, research-based reports and analysis on the matter. The level of quantitative data was relatively low for one of the most researched, taught and explored subject for many centuries. Nonetheless, with time, there are now more studies and numbers published on that account. So, here are some from the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan and the United States.

United Kingdom

The London Ambulance Service (LAS) is an NHS Trust responsible for ambulance operations and response to emergency medical situations within London. It revealed that they received an average of 37 callouts to suicide or suicide attempts a day between April and September of 2020. Almost doubled from the previous year’s 22 a day and five years’ ago, 17 a day.

Their latest data shows that 1 in 10 emergency calls were related to mental health and 878 of 6946 calls was related to young men aged 21-25 years old. The majority tend to be male. Furthermore, the crisis is thought to be underestimated. This is because the average of 37 calls a day do not include other incidents that include fall from heights and drug overdose. All of which are attempts to take one’s own life.

Throughout the country, data by the Royal College of Psychiatrists reported by The Telegraph, demonstrate that the number of people seeking support for suicidal thoughts went from 80,298 to 232,271. Coinciding with the trend seen in London. Another report from the University of Glasgow found that one in ten people suffered suicidal thoughts during the first six weeks of Britain’s lockdown. Additionally, one in seven among young adults between the ages of 19-30, higher than the overall population. The academics found that the pandemic and being confined to home had a major impact on the mental health of people in the UK.

Italy

In Rome, Dr Stefano Vicari, head of the complex operating unit of Childhood and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry, Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital, said that hospitalizations of children for self-cutting and attempted suicide have increased by 30 percent since October of 2020, during the second lockdown. Similar to the trend during spring’s first lockdown. He stated that “in 2020, we had over 300, or nearly one every day.” This can be compared to 2011’s only 12 cases of hospitalization of young people for self-harm and attempted suicide.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), suicide is ranked as the second among the causes of death between the age of 15-29, after road injury. One death worldwide each 40 seconds. Suicide is also the second cause of death in Italy for the same age group.

In his remarks, Dr Vicari added:

“It is also due to Covid-19 and this period (with or without lockdown) that self-harm and suicidal acts have increased, which have marked a growth of mental disorders in both boys and children: irritability, anxiety, disturbed sleep.”

And:

“There is another slice in the world of young people who shut themselves more and more inside the house, inside the room, who spend hours playing video games without any social interest. Who live the uselessness of the relationship and increasingly confine this world to tablets or technological tools. After the emergency it will be very difficult to get them out of the house. That’s where they find reassurance. It is there that the symptom of a social phobia is strengthened, which is often accompanied by more or less acute forms of depression.”

Japan

Initially, suicide data from Japan showed that there was a decline during the first wave of the virus’ outbreak, February to June 2020. The country recorded a 14 percent decline in the number of suicides nationwide. Some observers credited the drop to increased government subsidies during periods of lockdown, as well as decreased working hours and school closures. Reduced daily stress from Japan’s traditionally overworked citizens.

Despite the enchanting figures of the suicide rate, the three following months showed a different side. Researchers from Tokyo’s Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology and Hong Kong University found that monthly suicide rates in Japan increased by 16 percent from July to October 2020 compared to the same period the previous year.

Mean monthly suicide rate per million in each city during the period of the study

The researchers found that children, adolescents, and women have been disproportionately affected in their psychological health. Suicide among women increased by 37%, 5 times the increase among men. They noted that domestic violence increased and concurrently, the pandemic was hurting industries that are dominated by women. Thus, increasing the burden on working women.

A provisional report from the Ministry of Education in Japan said that the number of juvenile suicides in Japan increased by 40 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year. A staggering 479 schoolchildren took their lives, the largest share of 329 being from senior high school students. Among them, 191 were male, up by 21 from the previous year, while suicides among females doubled by 71 to 138.

United States

The fifth largest school district of Las Vegas decided to reopen its schools for in-person learning earlier this year after seeing the number of suicide double from the previous year. 9 in 2019 to 18 in 2020. Moreover, after the sixth suicide in July, Clark County, Nevada, got the GoGuardian Beacon alert system which scans student writings on district-issued iPads for suicide risk. They got more than 3,000 alerts in the next few months, as reported by The New York Times.

“When we started to see the uptick in children taking their lives, we knew it wasn’t just the Covid numbers we need to look at anymore. We have to find a way to put our hands on our kids, to see them, to look at them,”

Jesus Jara, Clark County superintendent

According to America’s health rankings 2020 report on suicide, mental health providers increased 23% between 2016 and 2020 from 218.0 to 268.6 per 100,000 population and non-medical drug use increased 10% between 2019 and 2020 from 5.9% to 6.5% of adults.

Conclusion

Suicide has risen in most countries and even the most developed ones with the highest standard of living have not escaped it. The highlight of this increase is that most data show a shift in the demography. In the traditional sense, men were more likely to take their life. In 2020, we can analyze a changing trend among women . Although suicide among men have risen, among women, suicide have risen faster. Almost tying with men in some cases. Moreover, the young people remain the most vulnerable group, becoming increasingly the ultimate resort for some in these times.

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