What are we seeing through our services?
Throughout lockdown, we have continued to provide support to our callers over half a million times. One in four of these conversations has been with someone who is expressing suicidal thoughts or behaviours.
Common themes where callers express suicidal feelings included callers feeling anxious, isolated, hopeless about the future, trapped (e.g. “not seeing the end to this”), and a sense of loss (including loss of income, routine and social contact, because of lockdown).
We know there are certain factors that are related to suicide risk – and during lockdown, some of these psychological factors came up often in conversations with callers, such as:
- Negative thoughts about the future
Callers are expressing uncertainty, fear and concerns about what the future holds. These concerns are discussed more frequently as the lockdown goes on, often with additional economic worries (e.g., worry about job loss and missing out on opportunities due to the pandemic).
- Coping/reduced resilience
Callers are talking to us about a reduced ability to cope as a result of lockdown, with their usual ways of coping (accessing community support, or meeting with friends) having been diminished or unavailable. Concerns about this are reported more frequently and with a greater level of distress as time goes on.
Since the beginning of lockdown, callers’ have expressed a sense of loss in various of ways, from loss of income or routine, to loss of social contact, or mental health support and services. Sometimes, loss is coming from multiple angles all at once, which is particularly difficult for people to cope with.
- Lacking social support
Unsurprisingly, callers talk to us about reduced access to social support. Not only their family and friends, but also from people like care workers, café workers, and local community groups.
Some callers have been struggling with the extra time alone and at home. This can lead to ‘overthinking’ or having cyclical thought processes. In some instances, this related to previous traumatic experiences or memories that had re-emerged during lockdown.
A small number of callers spoke to us about feeling like a burden to families and friends during lockdown. For callers concerned about mental and physical health, not wanting to burden NHS services was one of the most prominent themes.
Coronavirus is disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable people in society and will exacerbate factors we know are related to suicide.
In a survey of over 70,000 adults in the UK:
- Just over 1 in 10 reported experiencing suicidal thoughts or thoughts of hurting themselves during the first week of lockdown.
- 2% reported to have self-harmed or attempted suicide during the first week of lockdown.
- People with a mental health diagnosis have been particularly affected.
- These findings appear to hold true even as lockdown restrictions are being eased.
Covid-19 is having a profound effect on the economy. We know that in times of recession suicide rates rise. Those who are hardest hit by economic downturn are also those who are at greatest risk of suicide – e.g., middle-aged men (see our report Dying from Inequality.)
New research coming soon!
We are collaborating with the Suicidal Behaviour Research Lab at The University of Glasgow and Scottish Association for Mental Health to understand the impact the Covid-19 pandemic is having on the mental health and wellbeing of the UK.
This nationally representative study involves around 3,000 people, who are being followed up throughout the pandemic to understand the ongoing impact – it will improve our understanding of what proportion of the UK are affected in relation to their mental health as well as use of our services.