By: Isabelle Siegel
The COVID-19 epidemic quickly became an international crisis, impacting each and every one of us to varying degrees. Even for those of us who do not personally know someone affected with COVID-19, the mental health toll that the virus is taking is pervasive. In fact, calls to one national mental health hotline have increased by 1000% in April alone.
One unfortunate secondary consequence of COVID-19 and its effects on public mental health is increased suicide risk: It is predicted that the suicide rate will drastically increase in the coming months. This is likely the result of the anxiety surrounding COVID-19, coupled with resulting economic stress and social distancing.
The threat of COVID-19 serves as an immense stressor, having the potential to increase the rates of onset of mental health conditions and/or to exacerbate pre-existing mental health conditions. According to the Washington Post, nearly half of Americans cited COVID-19 as being harmful to their mental health.
COVID-19 has brought about an unprecedented economic crisis, with unemployment rates skyrocketing. Previous research has documented that suicide rates tend to increase by 1.6% for each percentage point increase in the unemployment rate. This means that with current unemployment rates estimated at around 15%, we may see a 24% increase in suicide rates.
Increased suicide rates may also be an unintended consequence of social distancing measures. Ironically, what is keeping us physically safe and healthy may be putting our mental health at risk. Humans require connection to survive, especially in times of duress. In times of forced isolation, it is only natural that the risk of suicide will increase. Social distancing measures are also limiting access to community and religious support systems, as well as to mental health care—all of which have been demonstrated to lower suicide risk.
How can suicide risk be addressed in the era of COVID-19?
Despite the stress associated with the COVID-19 crisis, measures can still be taken to lower suicide risk through awareness of risk factors, increased access to teletherapy, and maintaining social connections (via Zoom, FaceTime, etc.).
If you or a loved one appears to be at risk for anxiety, depression, or suicide, the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can assist you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/