Suicide-related ambulance presentations in Australia increased by more than 50% in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, new research suggests.
Analysis of ambulance data between March 2020 and March 2021 found a significant and sustained increase in attendances for suicide attempts, suicidal ideation and self-harm compared to before the pandemic.
The study, published as a preprint that has not yet been peer-reviewed, drew on data from the National Ambulance Surveillance System. Its findings contrast with previous data showing that the rate of death by suicide decreased in Australia in 2020 compared to the previous year.
The study’s co-author Associate Prof P Daniel Lin, said the increase in suicide-related ambulance calls from March 2020 onward was sustained even after lockdown restrictions were relaxed. “What we can conclude is that the need to call the ambulance [for such issues] definitely increased after the pandemic began,” he said.
The researchers hypothesized that some people requiring clinical help might have “turn[ed] to ambulance services due to interruption in other clinical services,” while increases in psychological distress could also have contributed to the rise in presentations.