Why Corona Pandemic May Be Increasing the Risk of Suicide

Updated on August 24th, 2020
covid-19 impact on suicide

The COVID-19 crisis has led to many significant shifts in the way society functions. And many of these shifts can increase the risk of suicide in a few individuals.

Present studies show that many individuals are experiencing increased distress right now from the crisis. In a McKinsey national consumer survey undertaken from March 27 – 29, 2020, it was concluded that sixty-three percent of Americans felt depressed, anxious, or a combination of both.

And eighty percent of Americans reported feeling moderate or high distress. Additionally, one in four Americans reported binge drinking within the last week. Various factors related to the pandemic may place some individuals at an exceptionally high risk of suicide(1).

Social Isolation

While social distancing is an essential part of controlling the spread of COVID-19, it can take a severe toll on some individuals’ psychological health. And for those who have thoughts about ending their lives, fewer social interactions may significantly increase the risk of suicidal tendencies.

A 2018 research published in the JAD (Journal of Affective Disorders) found that loneliness and social isolation were crucial factors contributing to suicidal behavior and thoughts. 

Thus, people who live alone may be at an unusually high risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior when they’re quarantined or social distancing. Besides, anyone else who experiences more elevated amounts of loneliness during the crisis may be at a greater risk.

[Also Read: How to Make Your Days Better During COVID-19]

Financial Distress

Lockdown rules have caused many individuals to lose their jobs. These people are likely struggling right now to get employment or to find alternative sources of earning. Their monetary distress may place them at a greater risk of suicide. Besides, there are concerns that a recession could be on the anvil.

Many people have already lost money in the stock market, and many businesses may fail to recover even when lockdown rules are lifted. Traditionally, economic downturns are linked with increased suicide rates. A 2015 research found that suicide rates tended to increase during recessions.

[Also Read: How to Destress Yourself]

Little Access to Community Support

Many individuals rely on mutual care from the community to function at their best. But nearly all community programs and activities have been canceled. Also, many religious services have canceled all in-person events. For many individuals, attending religious services is key to maintaining good psychological health. 

A 2016 study recorded in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Psychiatry observed that weekly attendance at a religious gathering was associated with a fivefold lower suicide rate.

Without access to community activities and church services, people may feel more isolated than ever, which may significantly increase their chances of suicide.

[Also Read: Self Care during COVID-19]

Barriers to Treatment

Many mental health care centers are not consulting patients in person during the crisis. And while some healthcare providers have shifted to phone and online treatment, others may not offer services at all. Outpatient centers, support groups, and many day programs have stopped their services during the pandemic.

This includes communities for substance abuse treatment as well, such as AA (Alcoholics Anonymous).It may also be more challenging for individuals to see their psychiatrists or physicians. This may make it tough to get prescriptions refilled.

Media Coverage

Constant news coverage about the COVID-19 may have an adverse toll on an individual’s health. Reports about “community spread” and “death tolls” can cause an immediate rise in anxiety. The distressing news can increase the severity of preexisting mental health conditions, like anxiety and depression. It can also increase substance use.

Health Care Worker Risks

Research has found doctors are at a higher risk of suicide in general—particularly female doctors. Their job-associated stress can increase their risk for a variety of mental health issues.

Medical professionals may be at an exceptionally high risk of suicide during the crisis. Seeing colleagues get sick, a lack of personal protective equipment, and the fear of contracting the virus are just some factors that can take a severe toll on health.

But it’s not just doctors who feel the strain. Research on healthcare professionals in Wuhan, China, found that frontline workers and nurses were more likely to experience mental distress, including depression and anxiety, during the corona pandemic.

How to Check on Loved Ones

If you’re bothered about a family member or a friend, speak out to them. Ask them how they’re doing. Be sure to acknowledge what a distressing time this is, and ask them to share how they’re managing the emotions caused by the current pandemic.

If you doubt they have suicidal tendencies, don’t hesitate to ask. Be direct with your queries by asking something like, “Have you thought about ending your life?” or “Have you had any thoughts about hurting yourself?” 

If there’s an impending risk of suicide, call 911 or your local police department. The expected risk may mean the individual intends to follow through with a plan or has already engaged in suicidal tendencies, like taking pills.

If the danger isn’t immediate, encourage the person to get help from a psychiatrist. Make it loud that they deserve to feel good, and you’re willing to guide them towards getting the help they require.

If you have queries about how to proceed or what to do, contact suicide prevention or crisis line to discuss the condition. If you’re bothered about a loved one’s well-being, it’s essential to also take care of yourself.

You might see a mental health professional on your own, or you can reach out to someone you trust to help you handle the emotions you’re going through.

Calling your local emergency room or your primary care physician is always an option.

Bottom Line

It’s essential to seek medical help if you’re having thoughts of killing yourself. And if you doubt a loved one may be suicidal, it’s crucial to back their efforts in getting help. Medication, talk therapy, or a combination of services have been shown to help. Hospitalization may be necessary for an acute crisis.

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