Suicide Concerns in the COVID-19 Pandemic
Trigger Warning: This article includes issues about suicide which may be disturbing to some readers. The main purpose of the article is to aware people about the suicice concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Every year we lose over 800,000 lives to suicide. It is one of the leading causes of death in people between the ages of 15 and 29. Therefore although we are dealing with the global pandemic at the moment, the bigger pandemic – death by suicide, also needs our attention. Besides, we must also keep in mind the effect that the pandemic could have on suicide risks.
What are the chances of the rates of suicide increasing as a result of the global pandemic?
Can we afford to lose more lives than we are already losing each year – youth or otherwise?
The undeniable fact remains that the virus does not just threaten our physical health but our mental health as well. While taking precautionary measures like staying home and staying alone to physically distance ourselves to keep ourselves safe, it is also creating the social distance.
We are cornered and confined to a small space – a safe place, and yet the alarming number of positive corona virus cases keep going up. It has been almost a year since the virus first made it to the news and it is not showing any signs of slowing down. This seemingly endless threat along with the fact that there is still no known cure/vaccine yet is sure to cause anxiety and stress.
Although this is indeed a novel and unprecedented situation with no research data available for reference, it is rather inevitable that we may witness an increase in suicide rates. It is important for us to admit the inevitable and identify the causes of the risk so that we can be vigilant enough to reduce and prevent the suicide rates.
Below, we discuss some of the reasons the pandemic might fuel increase in suicide risks:
Table of Contents
Stress and Anxiety
The virus has spread to every corner of the world making every individual vulnerable and susceptible to the illness. There is no known cure and the work on vaccines is ongoing. All these facts are causing more stress and anxiety to the general public and the impact is bigger on individuals who have a history of mental health issues. The fear of the unknown, in terms of treatment as well as how long the threat is going to last, is also bound to add more stress and anxiety and could lead individuals to feel helpless. The ever increasing stress and anxiety and the ensuing helplessness could eventually push people to having suicidal thoughts.
Isolation and Loneliness
The most effective measure to stay safe from the contagion is self-isolation. However, staying away from the crowd and in isolation is turning into a life of loneliness for many. With isolation also comes boredom and fatigue. sense of loneliness added with boredom can exacerbate the symptoms of depression in individuals who have had an earlier diagnosis.
Besides, therapy or counseling has also changed from face-to-face to digital sessions, and may not be as easily available and accessible like in the pre-pandemic time. This imbalance between aggravated symptoms and reduced or lack of access to treatment could also increase suicidal ideations in individuals.
Mental Health Stigma
Since the entire world seems obsessed with the COVID19 and rightly so, the mental health and well being may have become secondary. Generally, people are so concerned about not contracting the virus that we are unconsciously ignoring mental health concerns. Such an attitude can work against people who are experiencing symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression, and they may hesitate to seek help. As a result, their symptoms will only exacerbate in the absence of medical attention and treatment. When the symptoms become overwhelming, the individuals may also have suicidal thoughts.
Many small businesses have completely shut down and some businesses have moved online to survive. As a result people have lost their jobs and there are not a lot of job opportunities available either. Losing one’s source of income can cause a lot of problems especially if one has to deal with house rent, mortgage, and other living expenses, etc. Also, loss of job does not only have an effect on finance but also on the mind. Joblessness leads to idleness and boredom as a result of reduction in productivity. The financial insecurity along with reduced productivity and boredom could push people to despair and suicidal thoughts.
While staying home is prescribed to stay safe from the virus, what if home itself does not provide physical security and instead threatens an individual’s physical safety. There are increased cases of domestic violence during the lockdown. The victims, mainly women and children, have to live under constant fear at home. The alternative i.e. going outdoors or leaving the house is not feasible in the current situation. Consequently, people may have suicidal thoughts.
The first news of death by suicide that can be related directly to COVID19 came from India, who killed himself when he mistook his normal viral infection symptoms for coronavirus. Although, there has not been any news related to death by suicide following this particular news, it could implant suicidal thoughts on people who have read / watched the news.
Sometimes, listening to or reading such news people may start comparing their situations with the ones who have died by suicide. This could lead to people having suicidal ideation and what is called imitative suicide.
It is more than obvious that the coronavirus will not only affect us physically but mentally as well. Ironically some of the measures that can help combat coronavirus are the very ones exacerbating the symptoms of mental illnesses. The pandemic has been hard on us all but for some it may become unbearable. We have discussed above and tried to shed light on how the mental impact of the virus could in turn increase suicidal thoughts in individuals. Suicide is preventable and to prevent suicide we must be aware and learn about what could cause suicidal thoughts.
You can save the precious lives of your loved ones. Stay home, stay safe and stay ALERT!