The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Suicide Rate Trends in the Tsunami-Disaster-Affected Area Following the Great East Japan Earthquake

This article was originally published here

Crisis. 2021 Dec 3. doi: 10.1027/0227-5910/a000832. Online ahead of print.

ABSTRACT

Background: People who experienced the Great East Japan Earthquake (GEJE) were expected to have additional levels of psychological burden resulting from the stressful conditions imposed during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic; consequently, suicide rates may increase. Aim: We aimed to carry out continuous monitoring of suicide rates in the affected area following the GEJE under COVID-19 pandemic conditions. Method: This descriptive study monitored the suicide rates of the coastal area of Miyagi Prefecture, where disaster-related mental health activities have been continuing following severe damage caused by the tsunami disaster. An exponential smoothing time-series analysis that converted suicide rates into a smooth trend was conducted. Results: Although the suicide rate in the affected area was higher than the national average in February 2020, it showed a declining trend during the COVID-19 pandemic, while showing an increase trend in the national and non-affected areas. Limitations: Uncertainty about the direct reasons for suicide and the short time-scale observation are the limitations of this study. Conclusion: Although the national suicide rate increased, this was not the case for the affected area. Our findings may provide important lessons for suicide prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic, which needs careful regional monitoring of the state of suicide and of high-risk approaches such as disaster-related mental health activities.

PMID:34859681 | DOI:10.1027/0227-5910/a000832