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Suicide is a Major Concern During the COVID-19 Pandemic

 

Mental Stress Over Financial Hardship, Loss of a Loved One and Other Factors Contribute to Thoughts of Ending One’s Life. Identifying Red Flags are Critically Important.

 

PASADENA, Calif., Sept. 9, 2020 —  Suicide claims the lives of over 44,000 Americans each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, with isolation and people’s lives upended by the spread of the coronavirus, the COVID-19 pandemic is presenting added challenges that may cause more people to contemplate ending their lives, a mental health expert warns.

 With September being National Suicide Prevention & Awareness Month, it’s important to have a better understanding of how the pandemic is negatively affecting many people’s mental health due to job losses, the loss of a loved one, as well as financial hardship and anxiety that may lead to depression and substance abuse. These factors can lead to thoughts of suicide.

 “The need to quarantine in social isolation has made people feel more detached from each other,” explained Anabel Basulto, a licensed marriage and family therapist with Kaiser Permanente Southern California. “Humans are social beings by nature, and isolation has made it difficult for many of us to cope. Suicide has increasingly become an issue during this pandemic with increased financial and relationship stressors. Suicide is an equal opportunity aggressor that affects people of all genders, races and age. We need to pay more attention to symptoms, and seek immediate help when needed.”

 According to the CDC, for every death by suicide, there are over 25 suicide attempts. Suicide is also the 4th leading cause of death for people ages 18-65, and men are four times more likely than women to die by suicide.

 Basulto, who has noticed an increase in the number of patients seeking assistance with their mental health due to the pandemic, explained that suicide is a state when individuals feel hopeless and helpless about a given situation, such COVID-19. Suicide can a be a passive or active thought, and neither one is more important than the other, as passive thoughts can quickly become active.

 “A passive thought might be, ‘I wish I would not wake up’, whereas an active thought is more direct like, ‘I want to die,’ ” she explained. “There are many factors that play into someone feeling this way and acting on those feelings. A history of mental illness and substance abuse puts individuals more at-risk of suicide.”

 Basulto listed the following warning signs that may indicate someone is at-risk of suicide:

  • Someone tells you they have passive or active thoughts about ending their life.
  • A person begins to isolate or avoid others.
  • An individual begins to give away possessions or belongings.
  • A person collects pills or weapons with the intent to use them.
  • Someone searches the internet for articles on how to commit suicide.
  • Increased substance abuse.
  • Changes in behavior (especially in children).

Basulto recommended doing the following to help someone who displays red flags when it comes to committing suicide:

  • Reach out and don’t be dismissive of someone’s feelings in pain.
  • Be open to communicate about what is bothering them.
  • Help them create a safety plan containing phone numbers and names they can call in case of a mental health emergency.
  • Create a plan for self-care engaging in healthier lifestyles with better nutrition and exercise.
  • Seek help/psychotherapy. Many medical professionals can help with mental and psychiatric care.
  • Avoid alcohol and other mind-altering substances.

“What’s important to understand is that suicide is preventable and help is available,” Basulto stressed. “There’s no doubt that many people’s mental health is suffering right now. That’s why it’s so important to look for warning signs and seek help as soon as possible.”

 The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day in English and Spanish by calling 1-800-273-8255.

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