Understanding the Full Scope of Suicide During Covid-19
By Dr Becky Spelman
As the coronavirus becomes an evermore ominous presence in our daily lives, it has brought with it a slew of secondary effects that couldn’t haven’t been predicted or accounted for in a pre-pandemic world. One of the first was the rise in domestic abuse because of the lockdown. But another chief contributor to the mortality rate is another co-morbid factor that exists alongside the virus – and that is the rise for in suicide cases.
Why the Sudden Spike in Suicide Cases During COVID-19?
Suicide isn’t a cut and dry case. It’s unlike other facets of mental health in that it’s both a symptom and a result of a pre-existing condition. However, it can also be the outcome of environmental factors that have so overwhelmed an individual that they cannot rationalise living another day. And of course, the biggest environmental factor that many of us will experience in this life will surely be the current pandemic. It’s created uncertainty for all of us. It’s unprecedented – to lean on the often-repeated cliché that’s become a staple of our media coverage since March.
Economic Stress: The most immediate stressor that we have all face whether or not we’re at a high risk of suicide due to a pre-existing case of depression or other mental health conditions is surely financial. It’s not so much the lack of money that has caused us undue stress, but the manner in which it severely comprises our choices and hence our ability to get our most basic needs met. This has been the case for many people working minimum wage positions – already struggling – who’re now faced with the prospect of relying services such as food banks. It’s been well-documented in the past that economic downturns in the past, such as the Great Depression of the 1930s has brought with it a spate of suicide cases.
Social Isolation: In the case of social isolation, it presents something of a two-pronged narrative. On the one side, it is necessary to help contain the spread of the virus. However, it comes at the cost of social interaction and contact with family friends. And where people who are already borderline in terms of the stability of their mental health and rely on continued support, it’s made things extremely difficult. And for those individuals who may have been stable through the input of family – sadly many of them will make up the increase in suicide-related deaths that could very well have been prevented.
Barriers to Mental Health Treatment: Naturally, with the predominance of the coronavirus, hospitals and local surgery’s have been overwhelmed with an influx of people seeking help for a multitude of issues. This overload has meant that it’s been challenging for people to access the help they need from services that could already be difficult to navigate. There just isn’t the availability of doctors/practitioner to make the necessary referrals to more specialised mental health care practitioners. And when there is the possibility, to see someone about your issues, it’s often through Skype or Zoom, which presents its own issues in terms of connectivity and communication.
Existing Medical Problems: Besides the fact that many people are struggling to access mental health care programs, because of the influx of in-patients hospitals have been faced with, it’s also meant that many operations have been pushed back due to the high demand for beds. In practical terms, it means that for those waiting for surgery, they’re having to live through prolonged pain that may already be driving them to suicide. People experiencing chronic pain are already vulnerable to suicidal thinking, which, coupled with the cancellation of their ops, and absence of a proper support network to help them cope through the issue has contributed to the unfortunate rise in deaths since the lockdown began.
Over Exposure to Negative Media Coverage: It’s been covered many times before; however, it’s very much worth reiterating within this context. The mass coverage of the pandemic, while being somewhat of an expected response from our media, hasn’t done much to assuage our already heightened levels of anxiety. And for those who’re already predisposed to pessimism, the constant exposure to bad news stories have created grim narrative. One that has seen many people upset, angry, stressed and sink to levels of despair they haven’t previously known when you factor in some of the variables mentioned above. The media, while it’s supposed to keep us informed of current events, has become the architect of many people’s downfall.
The Implications of Suicide in a Post Corona World
As sad as it is to acknowledge, the true scale coronavirus is having on suicides won’t be fully known for quite some time. We’re still very much in the eye of the storm as far as the pandemic is concerned. And once the restrictions come to an end and we return to a semblance of normality, there will still be many after-effects that will continue to affect us long into the future. Many people have – and still are – losing everything they’ve ever worked for; their home, their business/employment, not to mention the passing fo those close to them who’ve contracted the virus. The post coronavirus world is going to be a ground zero for many. And that’s not to scaremonger or preach an unnecessarily pessimistic view of our future. It’s simply a reality that we must prepare for – one in which we can pull together with a greater sense of community-mindedness and help those who’ve been worse affected by everything that’s happened in 2020 and beyond. It may sound like the empty rhetoric of ‘we’re all in it together.’ But if the coronavirus has taught its anything, then it’s that we do need to pull together more as a community in whatever form that may be.
About the author:
Dr Becky Spelman is a leading UK Psychologist who’s had great success helping her clients manage and overcome a multitude of mental illnesses.
***If you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts and think you might benefit from speaking to someone, we offer a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with one of our specialists to help you find the best way to move forward. You can book yours here.
thebmj (12thNov2020)Trends in suicide during the covid-19 pandemic. Retrieved on 28th November, 2020 fromhttps://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4352
Psychology Today (17thJul2018)Are We Facing a Post-COVID-19 Suicide Epidemic?.Retrieved on 28th November, 2020 fromhttps://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/media-spotlight/202006/are-we-facing-post-covid-19-suicide-epidemic
Very Well Mind(7thMay2020)Why COVID-19 May Be Increasing the Risk of Suicide.
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