Description: When we look back on the year or two (or whatever it finally turns out to be) of the Covid-19 pandemic what do you think we will find happened to the suicide rate during the pandemic? If the rate increased significantly why might that have occurred? What factors were (are) involved? The study of suicide is incredibly difficult. It is a rare event and most contributing factors we can identify are either solely correlational (e.g., being an indigenous youth) or apply to such a large number of people who do NOT consider or act in suicidal ways that they are not particularly informative or useful. So, think for a moment about what you would predict we will find looking back at the Covid months in terms of suicide rates and suicidal behavior and think a bit about why there might be a change (if you think there will be one (hint, there very likely WILL be) and then have a read through the linked article for a Psychological consideration of thee questions.
Source: Will the Pandemic Result in More Suicides? Kim Tingley, The New York Times
Date: January 21, 2021
The distinction between predictive (correlational) factors and causal factors is important in general but is crucially important if we are to figure out why people attempt suicide and how we might help them not do so. Covid-related data might give us some insight into this question but as we wait it is vital to heed the suggestions offered as to what we can do in the meantime. Asking someone if they have or are considering suicide DOES NOT nudge them towards doing so and it can, in fact, open a line of communication and support that could well reduce the likelihood that they will act on such thoughts if they are having them. So, ask, if you are concerned and offer support even if it is just to help someone make a call to a suicide prevention hotline or distress center. Canada Suicide Prevention Helpline (1-833-456-4566), Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255. For an internationalist of suicide crisis lines visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines .
Questions for Discussion:
- Why is it difficult to conduct informative (useful) research into the factors associated with suicide?
- What is the difference between a predictive and a causal factor when trying to sort of the questions associated with why people commit suicide?
- What might we learn about suicide by studying it during these times of COVID-19?
References (Read Further):
Franklin, J. C., Ribeiro, J. D., Fox, K. R., Bentley, K. H., Kleiman, E. M., Huang, X., … & Nock, M. K. (2017). Risk factors for suicidal thoughts and behaviors: a meta-analysis of 50 years of research. Psychological bulletin, 143(2), 187. Link
Fox, K. R., Huang, X., Guzmán, E. M., Funsch, K. M., Cha, C. B., Ribeiro, J. D., & Franklin, J. C. (2020). Interventions for suicide and self-injury: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials across nearly 50 years of research. Psychological bulletin. Link
Bridge, J. A., Horowitz, L. M., Fontanella, C. A., Sheftall, A. H., Greenhouse, J., Kelleher, K. J., & Campo, J. V. (2018). Age-related racial disparity in suicide rates among US youths from 2001 through 2015. JAMA pediatrics, 172(7), 697-699. Link
Mann, J. J., Apter, A., Bertolote, J., Beautrais, A., Currier, D., Haas, A., … & Hendin, H. (2005). Suicide prevention strategies: a systematic review. Jama, 294(16), 2064-2074. Link
Zalsman, G., Hawton, K., Wasserman, D., van Heeringen, K., Arensman, E., Sarchiapone, M., … & Zohar, J. (2016). Suicide prevention strategies revisited: 10-year systematic review. The Lancet Psychiatry, 3(7), 646-659. Link
Yip, P. S., Caine, E., Yousuf, S., Chang, S. S., Wu, K. C. C., & Chen, Y. Y. (2012). Means restriction for suicide prevention. The Lancet, 379(9834), 2393-2399. Link
Sisask, M., & Värnik, A. (2012). Media roles in suicide prevention: a systematic review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 9(1), 123-138. Link