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Mental Health and Substance Use During COVID-19: Spotlight on Suicidal Ideation and Substance Use

COVID-19 continues to seriously impact mental health and substance use concerns

People with substance use concerns are among those most likely to report thoughts about suicide, according to our latest Leger poll. While everyone has been affected by stresses brought on by two years of the pandemic, it’s clear that not everyone has been impacted equally. Thoughts of suicide are also more common among youth, ethno-racialized groups and people who are unemployed.

A fifth report from the series of Leger polls commissioned by the Mental Health Commission of Canada and the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction focuses on the intersection of substance use and suicidal ideation during the pandemic. It highlights community resilience by featuring a cannabis and medication lockbox used in the Meadow Lake Roots of Hope project. The report includes a survey of more than 13,000 people in Canada and cross-sectional findings collected over nine time periods between October 2020 and January 2022.

Key Findings:

  • 7.9% of those surveyed reported seriously contemplating suicide.
  • About 1 in 3 people with a history of substance use disorders reported suicidal ideation during the pandemic (30.2% of women and 35.7% of men).
  • About 1 in 6 people with current substance use concerns reported suicidal ideation during the pandemic (17.4% of women and 16.4% of men).
  • Rates of suicidal ideation have been high among youth (16.6%) and Black respondents (15%).
  • People who were unemployed, either prior to (15.3%) or during the pandemic (16.3%), were more likely to report suicidal ideation compared with people who were employed (7.9%).
  • Past-month suicidal ideation was highest from May to September 2021, with rates of up to 4.9% for the general population. More recently, these rates have been declining (3.8% in January 2022).
  • Despite increased mental health and substance use concerns, access to services has remained relatively low.

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