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Child Suicide Rates During the COVID-19 pandemic in England

By David E Odd, Tom Williams, Louis Appleby, David Gunnell, Karen Luyt

Posted 15 Jul 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.07.13.21260366

BackgroundThere is concern about the impact of COVID-19, and the control measures to prevent the spread, on childrens mental health. The aim of this work was to identify if there had been a rise of childhood suicide during the COVID pandemic; using data from Englands National Child Mortality Database (NCMD). MethodChild suicide rates between April to December 2020 were compared with those in 2019 using negative binomial regression models, and characteristics compared. In a subset (1st January to 17th May 2020) further characteristics and possible contributing factors were obtained. ResultsA total of 193 likely childhood deaths by suicide were reported. There was no evidence overall suicide deaths were higher in 2020 than 2019 (RR 1.09 (0.80-1.48), p=0.584) but weak evidence that the rate in the first lockdown period (April to May 2020) was higher than the corresponding period in 2019 (RR 1.56 (0.86-2.81), p=0.144). Characteristics of individuals were similar between periods. Restriction to education and other activities, disruption to care and support services, tensions at home and isolation appeared to be contributing factors. LimitationsAs child suicides are fortunately rare, the analysis is based on small numbers of deaths with limited statistical power to detect anything but major increases in incidence. ConclusionWe found no consistent evidence that child suicide deaths increased during the COVID-19 pandemic although there was a concerning signal they may have increased during the first UK lockdown. A similar peak was not seen during the following months, or the second lockdown.

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