August 20th, 2020

// Sunnybrook to lead suicide prevention research during COVID-19 pandemic with immediate investment from TELUS’ CEO

Sunnybrook to lead suicide prevention research during COVID-19 pandemic with immediate investment from TELUS' CEO

TORONTO, ON, Aug. 19, 2020 /CNW/ - Critical research led by Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre into suicide prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic is receiving an immediate $100,000 donation from TELUS President and CEO Darren Entwistle and the Entwistle Family Foundation. This timely support will enable researchers to identify factors that may influence suicide rates during the initial stages of the pandemic in order to help inform urgent prevention strategies that could help save lives.

Led by Dr. Mark Sinyor, suicide prevention expert and Sunnybrook psychiatrist, researchers will combine data from Toronto's three regional trauma centres: Sunnybrook, St. Michael's Hospital and the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). Data will include self-harm cases and suicide attempts over the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The information will be analyzed to determine what drives risk for suicide during this pandemic and help guide prevention efforts, such as targeted outreach, mental health services, social assistance, and public messaging. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is responsible for the sudden onset of a number of known stressors, including increased social isolation, economic insecurity and concerns about the virus itself. Dr. Sinyor and his team are working to more fully understand these and other triggers so that experts can intervene more effectively.

"Pandemics, such as COVID-19, can have a negative effect on mental health, which we know can influence suicide rates. At the same time, in crises like these, people can often come together, and this connection can help reduce suicide risk. The key point is that the effects of the pandemic are not the same for everyone," says Dr. Sinyor. "We are seeing signs that it is increasing the risk of suicide for some individuals. We have to work to understand this better to help inform hospital systems and mental health care providers of ways to adapt and provide further support, because suicide is preventable."

The research project is planned to continue through one year of the pandemic so that longer term trends and data can shape ongoing public policy related to COVID-19 and future public health emergencies.  

"Suicide rates have been stable or even decreasing slightly in Canada over the past two decades, but they are still too high – every death is a tragedy – and we are certainly worried that the pandemic is creating the conditions that can push these rates in the wrong direction," says Dr. Sinyor. "This research will assist in implementing the most effective measures to help save lives across Canada and beyond."

Support from Darren Entwistle and the Entwistle Family Foundation will help Sunnybrook share this much-needed information with hospitals across Toronto and Canada, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention and international groups including the World Health Organization and International Association for Suicide Prevention.

Earlier this year, Mr. Entwistle committed the equivalent of three months' salary to critical COVID-19 research across Canada. Through this act of generosity, donations were made to BC Women's Hospital to support mental health programs, McGill University Health Centre Foundation to enable ICU patients to connect with loved ones, and Sunnybrook Foundation to urgently address suicide prevention needs.

This generous contribution from Mr. Entwistle and his family builds on a legacy of giving by TELUS, with more than $150 million dedicated to support Canadians through the pandemic and $1.3 billion in value, time and financial support to Canadian charities and grassroots organizations since 2000.

If you need help in an emergency please call 911 or visit your local emergency department. If you're feeling like you're in crisis or need somebody to talk to, please know that help is also available through community resources:

SOURCE Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre


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