Background: Most studies published to date have investigated the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on suicidal acts using hospital data. Trends from primary care in a country such as France are crucial, as individuals may not consult hospital services after suicide attempts (SAs) but rather see their general practitioner (GP).
Objectives: We aimed to evaluate whether the incidence and characteristics of SAs and completed suicides (CSs) reported to French GPs were different during the COVID-19 pandemic than those of before.
Methods and findings: We conducted a retrospective observational study using data from a nationwide monitoring system, the French Sentinel Network (FSN). All SAs and CSs reported by GPs to the FSN from January 1, 2010, to March 10, 2022 were included. The annual incidence rates (IRs) and the characteristics of SAs and CSs during the pandemic (March 11, 2020, to March 10, 2022) were compared to those of before. In total, 687 SAs and 169 CSs were included. The IRs remained stable for SAs and CSs before and during the pandemic (overlap in confidence intervals). The mean IRs were 52 (95%CI = 44; 57) per 100,000 inhabitants for SAs during the pandemic versus 47 [36; 57] during the pre-pandemic period (p = 0.49), and 5 (95%CI = 2; 9) for CSs versus 11 [6; 16] (p = 0.30). During the pandemic, SA were slightly different from those before in terms of age and occupational status (young/students and older/retirees over-represented), history of consultation and expression of suicidal ideas to GP (more frequent), and CS in terms of occupational status (students over-represented) (p<0.05).
Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic had no major effect on the overall incidence of SAs and CSs reported to French GPs. However, more suicidal acts were reported among younger and older individuals. Suicidal patients and GPs have adapted by improving the expression of suicidal ideas.
Copyright: © 2022 Pouquet et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.