Roger McIntyre
Dr. Roger McIntyre, head of UHN Centre for Mental Health's Mood Disorders Psychopharmacology Unit at the Poul Hanson Depression Centre, looked at past suicide mortality and unemployment data in Canada to project the potential effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on suicide. (Photos: UHN)

Unemployment is already a significant risk factor for suicide. As unemployment rises due to lockdown and quarantine measures implemented in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers at UHN’s Centre for Mental Health looked at the potential consequence on the number of suicides in Canada.

Using recent national-level suicide mortality and unemployment data from Statistics Canada, the researchers determined that between 2000 and 2018, a percentage point increase in unemployment is associated with a similar one per cent increase in suicide. The research was published in the scientific journal Psychiatry Research.

With joblessness expected to persist in 2020 and 2021 as result of the pandemic, the researchers expect to see a correlated increase in suicide.

“These results indicate that suicide prevention in the context of COVID-19-related unemployment is a critical priority,” says Dr. Roger McIntyre, Head, Mood Disorders Psychopharmacology Unit, UHN.

“Furthermore, timely access to mental healthcare, financial provisions, and social and labour support programs, as well as optimal treatment for mental disorders is urgently needed to help prevent this increase.”

The research has received widespread media attention. Read the National Post story

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