Spike in Number of Mental Health Referrals in U.K. After Lockdown

The number of mental health referrals made in the U.K. in March this year is almost a fifth higher than the number made in February 2020, before the imposition of numerous, long-lasting lockdowns. At the same time, the number of patients actually receiving care has fallen. MailOnline has the story.

Around 300,000 Britons were recommended for treatment in March this year, a rise of 18% compared to February 2020…

Referrals more than doubled in hardest-hit areas in England, including Leeds, Redbridge and Greater Preston, according to the analysis by the BBC.

Urgent referrals to crisis care teams – which include suicidal patients – have also risen 15% in the same time period, nationally.

However, the impact of the pandemic on mental health referrals in England seems less clear when looking at the entire year. There were roughly 3 million in the 12 months to March 2021, about the same as the previous year.

Charities fear patients have suffered in silence and put off coming forward for care during the pandemic, and warn there could be huge increases in referrals to come.

Despite the spike referrals this March, the number of patients actually receiving care was 9% below pre-pandemic levels.

Limited capacity due to social distancing is said to be partly to blame, as well as reduced services during lockdowns.

One suicidal mother who tried to take her own life last spring said she felt “abandoned” by the NHS when it shut down services to focus on Covid in the first wave.

Experts have long warned that a silent mental health epidemic has been brewing amid the pandemic, particularly in the young.

Worth reading in full.

Lockdown Behind Increase in Attempted Suicides Among Australians Aged 5-25, Says Youth Helpline

Lockdown has been a major factor in the increase in attempted suicides among Australians aged 5-25 over the past six months, according to the country’s free helpline for young people. Figures reveal that the area with the longest lockdowns over the last year saw the greatest increase in suicide interventions. The Mail Australia has the story.

Figures released by Kids Helpline has shown there were 862 attempted suicides recorded in people aged 5-25 and that the number of interventions to help vulnerable youngsters had doubled in the space of one year.

The Kids Helpline said heightened levels of despair and depression through the Covid lockdowns was a major contributory factor in the increase. 

A duty of care intervention – in which Kids Helpline make contact with police, child safety or ambulance services because a child or young person is at imminent risk – almost doubled in the same period. 

Such interventions were 99% higher nationally in the period from December 2020 to the end of May this year compared to the same period a year ago. 

Suicide attempts made up 38% of those interventions, and child abuse interventions comprised 35% across Australia.  

“We feared an increase in child vulnerability as a result of the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns, however the current spike in emergency interventions on behalf of children and young people across Australia is very disturbing,” said YourTown CEO Tracy Adams… 

Victoria, which had the longest lockdowns and most deaths from Covid during 2020, saw the greatest increase in suicide interventions, jumping 189% to 294 incidences

Worth reading in full.

Registered Suicides in England Fell in 2020 Because Inquests Were Delayed During Lockdowns

It was reported last week that despite fears of the mental health crisis prompted by the lockdowns leading to a spike in suicides in 2020, the number of people committing suicide in the U.K. did not rise after the first lockdown. While the provisional rate of suicides for 2020 is lower than that of 2019, this may be due to delays to coroner inquests, meaning the actual figure could be much higher, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The Mail has the story.

Registered suicides in England fell in 2020 as inquests were delayed during the coronavirus pandemic, official data shows.

Some 4,902 suicides were registered across the country last year – giving a provisional rate of 9.9 suicide deaths per 100,000 people, the ONS said.

That represents a fall from 2019, when the rate was 10.8 suicide deaths per 100,000 people.

The ONS said the fall “most likely reflects delays to coroner inquests, because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, as opposed to a genuine decrease in suicide”.

The 2020 figures are provisional and will be finalised by the ONS in late 2021.

All deaths by suicide are investigated by coroners, with deaths usually registered around five to six months after they occur due to the length of time it takes to hold an inquest.

Of the suicides registered in 2020, more than half (51.2%) occurred that year. Some 3,674 involved males, and 1,228 females.

Between April and June 2020, during the first national lockdown, the provisional suicide rate fell by 36.1% compared with the same period in 2019.

The number of registered suicides in this quarter was the lowest since 2001.

This is most likely to be due to the impact of the pandemic on the coroner’s service, such as delays to inquests as the service adapted to social distancing measures, the ONS said.

The number of registered suicides increased in the second half of 2020, most likely due to inquests resuming, the ONS said. 

In November, the charity Rethink Mental Illness said the number of people turning to its website for support with suicidal thoughts had tripled in the first six months of lockdown. A new study also found that the lack of in-person treatments – because of lockdowns – has made mental health patients feel as though they “were missing out on care”.

The Mail’s report is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A report from the Journal of the American Medical Association shows a decrease in U.S. suicides in 2020 by 2,700, from 47,500 to 44,800. But, at the same time, there was a substantial increase in the number of “unintended injury” deaths (an increase of 19,000 from 2019) which was “largely driven by drug overdose[s]”.

Dr Gary Ordog, MD, from the Department of Health Services in the County of Los Angeles (retired) said:

I was surprised by the suicide rate reported to have a major decrease in 2020. It seems from most other reports that the suicide rate has increased since the pandemic began. This may be explained by the fact that the category of “Unintentional Injury” had a major increase at the same time, and the fact that this category includes drug overdoses. As there is often inadequate history in a fatal drug overdose case, many of these may be purposeful and so suicidal. This would explain the perceived increase in suicide rate since the current pandemic began. Perhaps further analysis of the data would elucidate this incongruity.

Bridge to Nowhere

There follows a guest post by Professor Roger Watson and Dr Niall McCrae.

Suicide is always a tragic event and information is not easy to obtain. This is for good reason, to prevent ‘hot spots’ being advertised and to reduce copycat events. Nevertheless, any landmark with altitude attracts suicide attempts and very few survivals. Sadly, the Humber Bridge is one such spot and only the most notable are reported such as double suicides, for example, and attempted double suicides involving a mother and child.

Since the Humber Bridge opened in 1981 there have been over 200 suicides, which approximates to just below five annually. Merely five persons survived the fall. In the most recent complete annual figures we can find, from a 2019 study of suicides in Hull, three were attributed to jumping from the structure dubbed “the bridge to nowhere”. But the toll appears to have risen sharply under the COVID-19 regime.

In the last month alone there were six deaths from suicide on the Humber Bridge, many of them young people. This has prompted the closure of the footpaths and cycling commuters from Lincolnshire into East Yorkshire have to make special arrangements to cross the bridge to and from work. In none of the reports do we see any specific mention of the impact of lockdown; this is hardly surprising as the local newspapers have tended, like the mainstream media, to be “on message” regarding the need for COVID-19 restrictions. Were he still alive, we would be minded to consult Philip Larkin on this human calamity, and its callous cause.