Tracking the Prevalence and Incidence of Modifiable Suicide Risk Factors During the COVID‑19 Pandemic to Inform Targeted Suicide Prevention in British Columbia

Turner, Brianna J | $189,894

British Columbia University of Victoria 2020 CIHR Operating Grant

Half of Canadians report worsened mental health since the COVID‑19 pandemic began disrupting our lives this Spring. These impacts, combined with rising prevalence of known suicide risk factors such as unemployment and financial hardship, social isolation, alcohol and substance use, relationship strain and domestic violence, have raised concerns that of rising suicide risk in the Canadian population. Canada loses 3,800 to 4,500 lives to suicide each year. Suicide death and bereavement confer long-term psychological and social risk to families and communities. A small increase in suicide rate can thus result not only in excess loss of life, above and beyond the direct impacts of the pandemic, but also confer long-term vulnerability in our communities. To support efforts to increase targeting of mental health resources to specific demographics, regions, and groups, this study aims to characterize the specific mental health and related cognitive impacts of the COVID‑19 pandemic responses to inform evidence-based policy that can mitigate secondary suicide risk. We will recruit 5,000 community adults, with balanced representation of across age groups (10-year age bands from 19-29 to 70-79), sexes (male, female), geographic regions, and household incomes. Surveys will focus on Canadians’ emotional, physical, and cognitive wellbeing across distinct phases of the pandemic (Summer 2020; Fall 2020; Winter 2021). In addition, we will co-create supplemental surveys to assess the mental health vulnerabilities, resilience, and lived experiences with three potentially vulnerable groups: frontline mental health workers, Indigenous peoples, and people living in rural or remote areas. Supplemental surveys will be developed with knowledge users and community members so they are relevant and responsive to community needs. Our results can inform mental health strategies by identifying where, with whom, and what kind of intervention is needed to effectively reduce suicide risk.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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