The number of people attempting suicide has increased significantly during the pandemic, said Dr. András Bence Lázár, psychiatrist and head of the Chamber’s Psychiatry Group on behalf of the Hungarian Medical Chamber (MOK).
“Not only have completed suicides increased but also the number of suicide attempts and symptoms of depression,” Lázár said. He added that this is supported by findings published in scientific journals.
According to Lázár, the epidemic has had a twofold effect: on the one hand, the number of such attempts has increased because of the closures, and on the other, because of the restructuring of the health system. Experience shows that adolescents were the most exposed to the effects of quarantine. The 15-19 age group has also experienced a significant spike in depressive symptoms in the last two years.
The numbers that can be called in Hungary if one feels the need for help are 116-123 or 06 80 820 111. If you are worried about someone else, click here
Psychiatric care has been reduced, so “mental patients are much more likely to be left alone.” Lázár also noted that around two-thirds of suicide attempts are made by people with a mental illness.
Lázár said that the Hungarian Medical Chamber has written to the Ministry and the General Authority of Hospitals about the case. The organization has previously criticized the lack of a so-called “suicide register” in Hungary, which could help track those most at risk of suicide and prevent such cases.
He also talked about the significant increase in alcohol consumption during the pandemic, which tends to “drag down” suicide rates.
Data about suicide
On behalf of the National Center for Public Health, Cecília Müller wrote that they do not have data on suicide attempts. The National Ambulance Service was asked by RTL how many such cases had they responded to in recent years. They answered that as they are not obliged to collect data solely for the purpose of the request or to “produce qualitatively different data or data sets,” they are not in a position to answer. RTL also asked the National Institute of Health Insurance Fund Management (NEAK), but so far they have not replied.
Data on the number of attempted suicides are not available, but data on the number of completed suicides are provided by the Central Statistical Office (KSH). According to this, significantly more people committed suicide in 2020 than in 2019 – by around ten percent. This breaks a decades-long downward trend. According to Lázár, the downward trend in the years before the epidemic was due to the change in the social environment and the spread of antidepressants.
Earlier, head of the Prime Minister’s office, Gergely Gulyás, also reacted to the rise in suicides at a government briefing. According to him, it is not the psychiatric care that is the problem, but the closures that caused the spike. He said the solution was not to expand psychiatric care, but to avoid quarantine.
As we have also reported before, the negative mental effects of the pandemic are also shown by the fact that, for example, the Vadaskert Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital and Special Outpatient Clinic is full due to the effects of the pandemic.
Dr. András Bence Lázár thinks that after the epidemic, suicide prevention should receive special attention, especially in schools.
Featured image: illustration via Pixabay