These pages explore how the pandemic has affected wellbeing and suicide risk, based on findings from analysis of Samaritans service data and surveys of Samaritans volunteers.
- What do we know about coronavirus and suicide risk?
- How has coronavirus affected our callers' lives?
- Coronavirus and people with pre-existing mental health conditions
- Coronavirus, young people and self-harm
- Coronavirus and middle-aged men
- Coronavirus and healthcare workers
- Coronavirus and people in prison
- One year on: Methodology
Understanding how the pandemic has affected our callers
The coronavirus pandemic has had profound social, psychological and economic impacts all over the world. Samaritans has seen the direct effect of this on people’s wellbeing in the UK and Ireland.
Over the year since restrictions began in March 2020, we conducted research to understand how coronavirus affected people who access our services. This involved analysis of anonymous data we routinely collect about our calls and emails, as well as surveys of our volunteers.
In the year since the restrictions began in the UK (23 March 2020), we provided emotional support over 2.3 million times to people struggling to cope, by phone and email.
Coronavirus was raised as a specific concern in more than half a million emotional support contacts – 22% of the total number. However, our volunteers suggest it has affected all callers in some way.
Coronavirus as a concern for Samaritans callers
Concerns about coronavirus peaked early in the first lockdown in April 2020, when this was a concern in over a third of all emotional support contacts. Since then, the pattern has generally mirrored UK lockdowns, with concerns about coronavirus being more common in times of tighter restrictions.
Concerns about coronavirus decreased over the summer months, before rising gradually through autumn and winter. During the January 2021 national lockdowns, discussion of coronavirus rose to its highest frequency (29 per cent) since mid-May 2020.
Change in Samaritans service use
- In the year since social distancing restrictions began, we answered over half a million emails – a 23% increase compared to the previous year. Volunteers told us that some people prefer typing over talking and have found it difficult to talk on the phone in private.
- We also received 12 per cent more calls at night (2am - 6am) compared to the previous year. Coronavirus was more likely to be a specific concern in phone calls than emails (26% vs 15%) and calls with coronavirus as a specific concern were 40% longer - an average of 24 minutes, compared to 17 minutes in other emotional support contacts.
- Calls occurring at twilight or night (10pm-6am) were also slightly more likely to be related to coronavirus than calls in the daytime (27% vs 25%).
- Analysis of the helpline in Ireland found that calls were longer in the four weeks following the first lockdown compared to just before the lockdown or the same time the previous year. This change was greatest in the early hours of the morning (1am - 6am), with significantly more calls lasting 30 minutes or longer.
- The frequency that suicidal thoughts or behaviours were expressed does not appear to have changed as a result of the pandemic. Suicidal thoughts or behaviours were discussed in a quarter of emotional support contacts, which was the same as in previous years, and remained stable throughout the year since restrictions began.