It is 9 months since WHO declared the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then the disease has claimed at least 1.5 million lives worldwide. In response to concerns about the impact of the pandemic on suicide and suicidal behaviour, and with support from IASP, the International COVID-19 Suicide Prevention Research Collaboration (ICSPRC) was formed in April 2020.
Over the last few months, we’ve seen the number of collaborators double to over 100 and the collaboration now includes members from 39 nations (Australia; Austria; Brazil; Canada; China; Croatia; Czech Republic; Denmark; Ecuador; England; France; Ghana; Germany; Hong Kong; India; Iran; Ireland; Israel; Japan; Kenya; Malaysia; Mexico; Netherlands; Nigeria; Northern Ireland; Norway; Pakistan; Peru; Poland; Russia; Scotland; South Africa; Spain; Sri Lanka; Sweden; Taiwan; Uganda; Wales and the USA) as well as leads from IASP, IASR, AFSP and Samaritans.
Our main activities include:
● Sharing knowledge about the impact of COVID-19 on suicide and suicidal behaviour and prevention measures in our different countries through newsletters and monthly webinars. Webinars have included research presentations from Japan, Ecuador,England, Scotland, Sri Lanka, Ireland, India, Australia, Malaysia and the USA. A huge thanks to all speakers, chairs and particularly Wendy Cliff (IASP) and Jackie Etches (IASP) for supporting the programme.
● Establishing a Covid-19 suicide research study register. This now includes details of 30 studies worldwide. We encourage all researchers working on COVID-19 related studies of suicide and suicidal behaviour to share detail to facilitate collaboration here.
● Developing a questionnaire / survey toolkit for suicide prevention research during COVID-19 (thanks to Dee Knipe for leading this)
Our current major initiative – led by Profs. Jane Pirkis and Ann John, with brilliant support from Matt Spittal, Sang-Soo Shin, Vikas Arya and Marcos Marcos del Pozo Baños – is an effort to pool international data on suicide trends in the months before and after COVID. The aim is to determine the impact of the pandemic on suicide rates around the world. Whilst it’s clear that levels of community distress are high compared to before the pandemic, early indications are that there does not appear to be a significant increase in suicide deaths in high income countries during this period.
There are some suggestions that the picture may be different in lowand middle-income countries but it is not possible to be definitive about this due to the paucity of data from these countries. There are also indications from Japanese data that falls in suicide in the early months of the pandemic have been followed by rises in recent months (AugustOctober).
The pandemic has had variable effects globally, within countries and across communities, so a universal effect on suicide rates is unlikely. The impact on suicide will vary over time and differ according to national Gross Domestic Product, and individual characteristics such as socioeconomic position, ethnicity and mental health.
Major published outputs from the group to date are our initial assessment of prevention and research priorities and our paper on Research and Prevention Priorities lead by Thomas Niederkrotenthaler.
It has been a huge pleasure working with the ICSPRC steering group of 20 brilliant colleagues from around the world over the last 9 months. The work of the collaboration is a testament to how the suicide prevention community can come together for the greater good in a time of international crisis.
We’re keen to widen international membership and invite suicide prevention researchers, particularly from low- and middle-income countries and regions currently not represented, so do get in touch. For more information please see the collaboration website.
Professor of Epidemiology,
University of Bristol
(group chair) email@example.com