Samantha Lovell remembers her last conversation with Chris her brother. ‘I asked him earlier, “Are you sure you’re not going to do anything foolish?,” she says. “Not, of course,’ he answered. I’d never do anything stupid.” My last message read to him, “Are you okay, Chris?” “I will survive, Sam,” he said. On July 25, the father of two, who worked as a paramedic, died in a hospital at the age of 35 following a suicide.
Sam says her brother, who was a ‘party life and soul’ wanted to kill himself, had no signs. ‘I knew that Chris was in a bad place but you never think anyone will do that,’ she explains. ‘I’m really fighting the reality of it. I will feel numb and then it hits me all of a sudden and I just break down.’
It’s like I’m listening to the news again. My whole family is broken. We’re never going to be the same.” We do not think what he did was premeditated and was connected to a number of personal experiences. But he was autistic and ripped off his routine and all of his certainties were gone.
He didn’t kill himself due to lockdown, but it didn’t help lockdown.” Suicide is complex and seldom linked to one factor, but the pandemic might cause an increase in suicide rates when England was first severely restricted in March 2020.
Provisional data suggests this is not true, with some 4,902 Suicides recorded last year, which, according to the Office of National Statistics, provides a provisional rate of 9.9 suicide deaths for every 100,000 people.
It was a decrease since 2019 when the rate of suicide was 10.8 per 100,000 people – although the ONS had warned that the decrease was most likely due to the effect of the coronaviral pandemic, rather than a genuine reduction in suicide.
The study of real time surveillance by the University of Manchester covering a population of around nine million in April 2021 compares the months pre-lockdown (January – March 2020) and post-lockdown (April-August 2020).
The average number of suspected suicides per month varied, but no increase was observed by researchers. The same applies to self-risk rates. However, there are still evidence and we do not have a complete picture yet, say the Samaritans.
‘We cannot understand the full impact of the pandemic on suicide rates until we have a comprehensive set of figures,’ Dr. Elizabeth Scowcroft, Head of Research and Evaluation, explains. While information still emerges, the charity has concerns that the pandemic increases risk factors, especially those related to unemployment and unmanageable debt.
The country has plunged into the biggest record recession, with more than 813,000 people losing their jobs.
Meanwhile, ten million are expected to seek help with their mental health and crises, among other awful statistics, have seen an increase in calling. At the Week of awareness, experts send a clear message: suicide is not an inevitable knock-on effect from the pandemic, but prevention, which has to be at the heart of recovery plans, can never be complacent.
Suicide rates are not just data and ‘represent lost real lives, devastated real families, and no high or low suicide rate, rising or falling is acceptable.’ Writes for BMJ Professor Louis Appleby, who leads England’s National Suicide Prevention Strategy.
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