COVID-19 and the Risk of Suicide

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If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of physical suffering, but we cannot overlook the emotional and psychological toll as well. One particularly troubling aspect of the pandemic is the increased risk factors for suicide. 

Although we don’t have a lot of data on suicides related to the pandemic, there are many different factors that are contributing to suicide risk during this crisis.

Anxiety

Many people are experiencing increased anxiety right now. They may worry about their own or a loved one’s health, finances, social isolation, and the overall state of our world. The anxiety can become overwhelming and lead to suicidal thoughts.

Financial Issues and Unemployment

Financial issues are a major risk for suicide in any given circumstances, but COVID-19 has increased financial stress. The pandemic has caused job loss, loss of insurance coverage, medical bills, lost savings from the stock market instability, and other adverse effects.

Isolation and Loneliness

What started as a temporary lockdown in many states has turned into over six months of social distancing and limited public gatherings. This kind of isolation takes a major toll on mental health.

According to research from Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, a lack of social connection is as harmful as living with an alcohol use disorder or smoking 15 cigarettes each day. Prolonged loneliness can cause a variety of effects like depression, poor sleep, and even cognitive decline. People who are isolated due to the pandemic may also be experiencing a sense of hopelessness that can contribute to suicidality.

Grief and Loss

Over 200,000 deaths have been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as of October 3, 2020 (as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Many people who lost a loved one were unable to say goodbye due to hospital safety procedures. Families weren’t even able to grieve properly as state lockdown orders shut down public gatherings, including funerals. All of these factors exacerbated the sense of grief and loss.

Burnout and Stress Among Frontline Workers

For frontline workers, burnout and stress are serious issues. This is especially true for those in healthcare treating patients affected by COVID-19. Healthcare professionals may suffer from guilt, feeling like they couldn’t do enough to save their patients with COVID-19. Frontline workers may even develop secondary traumatic stress disorder. This is a condition similar to PTSD that affects people repeatedly exposed to others’ trauma.

How to Cope with Suicidal Thoughts

Those who are currently in crisis or think they might hurt themselves should call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). 

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts because of COVID-19, it’s important to talk to someone about it. Reach out to a trusted person like a family member, friend, spiritual leader, or mentor. Or, contact your doctor. Your primary care provider can provide referrals to mental health services. 

You can also directly contact a mental health treatment center like High Focus Centers. We offer two levels of care for mental health concerns: a full-day program and a half-day program. Our services are available for adults and teens. Call us at (800) 877-3628 to schedule a teletherapy session to address your suicidal thoughts.