Anecdotal evidence from numerous professionals including the Police and Ambulance services, had indicated that potential suicide rates had dramatically increased across the country, including among young people, because of lockdown. As a former Teacher leading a campaign alongside over a hundred families who’s children have been seriously harmed or lost to suicide as a result of bullying and violence in schools, our campaign lead Jason Barnett was very concerned to hear this.
We were extremely surprised when we first read the BBC Headline, that statistics show that there had been no such increase. Nadine Dorries, Minister for Health, Louis Appleby Government advisor on Suicide Prevention, The Samaritans and the BBC all supported this claim based on the Statistics. Given the expertise available, I believe it was no accident that the statistics have been used to mislead the public and sadly that will potentially limit concern and action to prevent further loss of life.
Nadine Dorries said on Twitter of the evidence they were relying on, “Every life lost to suicide, is a tragedy, however this data showing zero increase in suicide figures since lockdown should be reassuring to those who have been concerned regarding the mental health impact of lockdown she went on to tweet “I also hope it will now put an end to some of the irresponsible narrative some have been using around mental health and suicide. There is no tsunami, no cliff edge and no explosion in suicide figures. We are absolutely aware of those who have been impacted by the lockdown.”
Our first thought was that all of the professionals would be fully aware that it is literally impossible to get any relevant data to evidence these claims because of the normal delays in declaring a death a suicide.
The claim that suicide figures from January to March pre-lockdown were similar to figures post lockdown from April to August is misleading at best. Often a death has to be verified by a coroner at inquest as a suicide, which often might not take place till many months after a death. We know this from the experience of many of the families in our group and their stories on this site. There can be no relevant comparison of figures between the 2 periods as many possible suicides between April and August will not even have been registered yet and will be yet to be determined as suicides.
This is borne out in the report that Nadine points to in support of her claims in which Louis Appleby states “Currently the median time from the occurrence of a suicide to its registration is 166 days. This delay means that ONS figures cannot provide close monitoring of suicide in relation to the pandemic.”
That is again supported on the ONS statistics site which makes it clear that these figures are provisional and cannot be relied on for a number of reasons. One of the key points heading the data states “the lower number of deaths registered caused by suicide in quarter two of 2020 should be interpreted with caution this likely reflects delays to inquest caused by the impact of covid – 19 and the pandemic on the coroners service. “
So the question remains, has this data set been used to manipulate the British public into believing suicides have not increased post lockdown, knowing that they most likely have. Stating that no evidence of suicides increasing from this data set is disingenious in our eyes when you know full well that most of the evidence does not yet exist.
Nadine Dorries represents a Government who currently are literally holding the lives of the British Public in their hands through this pandemic and demanding the trust of us all to follow their rules to stay safe. Being part of a Government including a number of Ministers currently facing potential misconduct charges of having attempted to cover up the more than 20 suicides of children in our campaign group pre pandemic, these are issues that raise questions, that we should all be demanding answers to.