In the past two months, 15 to 20 percent fewer suicides and attempts by the police have been recorded than in the same period last year. At the same time, police records of confused behavior have increased by 18 to 20 percent. The decrease in the number of suicides is particularly striking; many experts today expect a sharp increase.
The figures can be found in the weekly reports on vulnerable groups that researcher Bauke Koekkoek makes for the Landelijk Operational Team Corona (LOT-c). This is a service center in which, among others, the 25 security regions, police, fire brigade and Defense work together, which wants to keep a finger on the pulse in various areas during the corona crisis.
The ‘weekly images’ are also shared with drivers and the GGDs, among others. The effects of the measures taken on, for example, the homeless, compulsory admissions to mental health care institutions and reports of domestic violence are also discussed.
Varied responses to lockdown
Not all figures are clear after two months of keeping track, but that is different with reports of suicides and nuisance from confused behavior. Koekkoek, crisis nurse and lecturer at the Hogeschool Arnhem / Nijmegen and at the Police Academy, can see from the data that, just like the rest of society, people with psychological problems also react very differently to the corona crisis. “There are people who are quickly overstimulated, anxious or have lost the overview and who are now reasonably prospering from the extra rest that has also arisen. And there are others who are experiencing increasing stress.”
Records of confused behavior have been rising for years. The additional increase now probably also plays an important role in the loss of a lot of psychiatric care during corona time. Koekkoek thinks that the figure will drop slightly if caregivers visit people again and fall back on video bubbles, which is by no means a good solution for everyone.
He finds the decline in suicide rates difficult to explain. “What is clear is that the social situation is really different from normal now. There are now a lot more people who feel displaced. Maybe this makes some feel less ‘different’ lately. But it can also be are that some will have to wait and see what is going to happen. “
Concerned about victims
Last month, a group of scientists expressed concern about the ‘victims’ to be expected as a result of the increased financial and psychological pressure from the corona epidemic (and the measures being taken for that reason). They also referred to earlier economic recessions, when there was a clear increase in the number of suicides.
But according to Koekkoek it is not yet certain that the current crisis is fully comparable to the earlier one of the 1980s and the period after 2007. He sees an increased sense of community in the Netherlands and more support from the government. “What you hope is that this will continue and this time will lead to less suicidality.”
The 113 Suicide Prevention Foundation does not currently see an increase in the number of suicides. 113 cannot yet give precise figures. Nor has there been an increase in the number of calls to the helpline. It is, however, heard that many people asking for help relate problems to corona, which has increased their thoughts of suicide. Loneliness is the most frequently cited problem, together with the decreased supply of aid.
Just like Koekkoek, lead researcher Renske Gilissen of 113 sees an increased solidarity in the country that can have positive consequences. “But it may also be too early. Risk factors such as unemployment are increasing. We must all remain alert.”