Year: 2021 Source: Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. (2021). 0(0), 1-7. doi: 10.1177/01410768211043186. SIEC No: 20210695

Objective: The objective of this research was to evaluate the impact of federal, public health and social support programs on national suicide rates in Canada.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Setting: Canadian National Database (i.e., Statistics Canada) and Statista.

Participants: Population-level data, and economic and consumer market data.

Main outcome measures: Suicide mortality data, population data and unemployment data were obtained from available statistical databases (e.g. Statistics Canada). We quantified suicide rate by dividing the total number of suicide deaths by the national population expressed as a rate per 100,000 population.

Results: Overall suicide mortality rate decreased in Canada from 10.82 deaths per 100,000 in the March 2019 – February 2020 period to 7.34 per 100,000 (i.e. absolute difference of 1300 deaths) in the March 2020 – February 2021 period. The overall Canadian unemployment rate changed from an average monthly rate of 5.7% in 2019 to 9.5% in 2020.

Conclusion: Our results indicate that for the first post-pandemic interval evaluated (i.e., March 2020 – February 2021), suicide rates in Canada decreased against a background of extraordinary public health measures intended to mitigate community spread of COVID-19. An externality of public health measures was a significant rise in national unemployment rates in population measures of distress. Our results suggest that government interventions that broadly aim to reduce measures of insecurity (i.e., economic, housing, health), and timely psychiatric services, should be prioritised as part of a national suicide reduction strategy, not only during but after termination of the COVID-19 pandemic.