Almost half a million people worldwide have died from COVID-19 so far, and the pandemic is disrupting millions more lives and livelihoods.
Many people are concerned about how the pandemic is affecting our mental health. They are particularly worried about the measures that have been taken to reduce the virus’ spread, the economic impacts of lockdown and the disruption to services that has occurred as a result.
There are fears that rates of suicide and self-harm may rise during and after the pandemic, especially among high risk groups such as older people, people living with mental illness already, and children and young people.
Governments, public health officials and people working in healthcare all need high-quality scientific evidence about the pandemic’s impact on suicide and self-harm, and on how best to help prevent these outcomes.
We are collaborating with Swansea University, and several other universities in the UK and Ireland, to create a living systematic review. This will provide the best available knowledge about preventing suicide and self-harm, in the context of COVID-19, in a way that is easily accessible to policymakers, public health specialists and clinicians.
Experts in suicide and self-harm prevention are collecting and examining the latest evidence on an continuing basis to present an updated review every three months, so that is it available quickly for all who may need it.
We set up daily automated searches that fed into a web-based screening system. These searches looked for evidence in several areas of suicide and self-harm prevention, including:
Following initial screening, suicide prevention experts in our team review articles every day. Key publications and evidence summaries that we find are flagged and shared with policy makers in the UK and internationally.
We published our first living review on the open access platform F1000 Research in September 2020. Our review protocol was published in June 2020.
Results from our review will also be accessible freely on our project website for policymakers, public health specialists and officials, and clinicians (select Publications menu to view).
Professor David Gunnell wrote a BMJ editorial ‘Trends in suicide during the COVID-19 pandemic‘, which was published on 12 November 2020.
The living review will be updated every three months if new evidence becomes available. We aim to publish a summary of the review’s findings in 2022.