Year: 2023 Source: Archives of Suicide Research. (2023). 27(2), 671-685. DOI: 10.1080/13811118.2022.2051653 SIEC No: 20231238

Objective: The impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on suicidal thoughts and behavior has been widely hypothesized but remains largely unexplored at the population-level. We aimed to assess changes in suicide risk (SR) in people with and without mental disorders, before and during the COVID-19 pandemic in Czechia.

Methods: We analyzed data from three nationwide cross-sectional surveys of Czech adults (November 2017, May and November 2020). For the 2017 data collection, we employed paper and pencil interviewing, while for the two 2020 data collections, we used a mixed computer-assisted web interviewing and computer-assisted telephone interviewing approach. All samples were representative in terms of age, gender, education, and area of residence for the Czech adult population (18+). We used the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview to screen for mental disorders and SR. We calculated weighted prevalence rates with 95% confidence intervals (95% CI).

Results: When compared to baseline, we found a 4% and 6% increase in SR in individuals without mental disorders in pandemic surveys (1.95% (1.45%; 2.44%) vs. 6.29% (5.28%; 7.30%) and 8.42% (7.19%; 9.65%)). Relative to baseline, SR in people with major depressive episode or anxiety disorders was elevated in May and November 2020 (22.35% (17.64%; 27.06%) vs. 36.68% (32.45%; 40.91%) and 38.88% (34.51%; 43.25%)).

Conclusions: We found substantially increased SR in both people with and without mental disorders, however, these changes could be partially related to differing data collection methods used in the baseline and subsequent surveys. Ongoing prevention, monitoring and evaluation of nationwide suicidality is warranted.HIGHLIGHTSWe found that suicide risk substantially increased during the pandemicSuicide risk was elevated in both individuals with and without mental disordersOur findings support increased suicide monitoring and prevention.