The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on self-harm and suicidal behaviour: a living systematic review.
John A., Okolie C., Eyles E., Webb RT., Schmidt L., McGuiness LA., Olorisade BK., Arensman E., Hawton K., Kapur N., Moran P., O'Connor RC., O'Neill S., Higgins JPT., Gunnell D.
Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused morbidity and mortality, as well as, widespread disruption to people's lives and livelihoods around the world. Given the health and economic threats posed by the pandemic to the global community, there are concerns that rates of suicide and suicidal behaviour may rise during and in its aftermath. Our living systematic review (LSR) focuses on suicide prevention in relation to COVID-19, with this iteration synthesising relevant evidence up to June 7 th 2020. Method: Automated daily searches feed into a web-based database with screening and data extraction functionalities. Eligibility criteria include incidence/prevalence of suicidal behaviour, exposure-outcome relationships and effects of interventions in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Outcomes of interest are suicide, self-harm or attempted suicide and suicidal thoughts. No restrictions are placed on language or study type, except for single-person case reports. Results: Searches identified 2070 articles, 29 (28 studies) met our inclusion criteria, of which 14 articles were research letters or pre-prints awaiting peer review. All articles reported observational data: 12 cross-sectional; eight case series; five modelling; and three service utilisation studies. No studies reported on changes in rates of suicidal behaviour. Case series were largely drawn from news reporting in low/middle income countries and factors associated with suicide included fear of infection, social isolation and economic concerns. Conclusions: A marked improvement in the quality of design, methods, and reporting in future studies is needed. There is thus far no clear evidence of an increase in suicide, self-harm, suicidal behaviour, or suicidal thoughts associated with the pandemic. However, suicide data are challenging to collect in real time and economic effects are evolving. Our LSR will provide a regular synthesis of the most up-to-date research evidence to guide public health and clinical policy to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on suicide. PROSPERO registration: CRD42020183326 01/05/2020.