Monitoring of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts during COVID-19 from the Emergency Management Information System
This report contributes to characterizing the potential impact of COVID-19 on suicidal behaviours in Quebec and on emergency department (ED) visits due to suicide attempts and suicidal ideation for the pre-pandemic (2014–2019) and the pandemic (2020–2021) periods. This is initiative was undertaken by the INSPQ as part of its monitoring activities.
- In the years leading up to the pandemic, a gradual decrease in the annual rate of ED visits for suicide attempts in Quebec was observed, from 65/100,000 people in 2014 to 50/100,000 people in 2019.
- Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the annual rate of ED visits due to suicide attempts appears to have decreased slightly more than the trend observed since 2016.
- The upward trend in the annual rate of ED visits for suicidal ideation observed in the five years preceding the pandemic was interrupted during the pandemic. This rate decreased from 415/100,000 people in 2019 to 348/100,000 people in 2020. This is a 16% decrease.
- There was a significant drop in the monthly rate of ED visits due to suicidal behaviours during the early months of the pandemic (March to May 2020) as significant health measures were put in place (lockdowns, social distancing) and overall ED visits decreased.
Characteristics of emergency department visits due to suicidal behaviours during the pandemic
- Both before and during the pandemic, girls aged 15 to 19 are the most common group to visit EDs for suicidal behaviours (ideation and attempts).
- Although ED visits for suicide attempts and suicidal ideation are higher among women than among men, the gap between the two groups narrows as age increases. This distribution is observed in both 2019 and 2020, with no apparent changes associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The pandemic does not appear to have had an effect on ED practices and timeliness.
Course of action
As the pandemic is ongoing and may impact ED visits due to suicide attempts and suicidal ideation, it would be useful to:
- conduct a study to determine if those who avoided the ED were able to receive the necessary care from other resources, a family member, or a loved one;
- maintain sustained monitoring and surveillance of ED visits for suicidal behaviours in Quebec and changes in deaths by suicide.