Troubling new statistics reveal that the rate of suicidal thoughts among Canadians has increased significantly since before the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to Statistics Canada data, only 2.7% of Canadians in 2019 reported struggling with thoughts about killing themselves. By 2021, that number had reached 4.2%.
Analysts relied on the Public health Agency of Canada’s 2021 Survey on Covid-19 and Mental Health which was conducted from Feb. 1 to May. 7, 2021.
“Sadly, that information is not surprising to us,” said National Director of Public Policy with the National Office of the Canadian Mental Health Association Sarah Kennell. “We’ve been conducting similar research in collaboration with the University of British Columbia, and the data certainly resonates. And what we’re seeing is really kind of the impact of the prolonged stress and anxiety associated with a pandemic that’s lasted over two years.”
Both men and women thought more about killing themselves last year. Those under the age of 65 also saw a spike.
“That data is collected on an annual basis by Statistics Canada, and we only have data that dates back to 2020 at this point. And that research tells us that the rates are consistent. But as we know, 2020 was still the early days of the pandemic,” said Kennell.
A number of contributing factors are believed to be behind the trend, including the fallout of lockdowns, social isolation and more.
“It certainly would justify why we’re seeing that kind of prolonged exacerbation in deteriorations in our mental health and really represent the negative side of the chronicity and the prolonged nature of this pandemic,” said Kennell.
Experts have warned that children are being particularly impacted by the mental health crisis after being denied the opportunity to attend school.
The Alberta Medical Association (AMA) recently reversed course after calling for lockdowns, citing the harm to mental health that restrictions have caused to children.
An AMA survey saw 77% of Alberta’s parents of teens over the age of 15 say that their children’s mental health has worsened as a result of lockdowns.
Last year, the Ottawa Community Paediatricians Network raised the alarm about youth facing serious mental health issues during the pandemic.
“We’re seeing it in our offices,” Dr. Jane Liddle said. “We have never seen this level of kids with major depression, suicidal thoughts and severe eating disorders.”
“I think at the very beginning of Covid, we all took a big sigh of relief. There was the initial impression that Covid is not going to be a children’s illness. Kids will be fine. They won’t get sick. Sadly, that’s not played out to be true.”