COVID-19 and Suicide

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.

National Anxiety

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.

Economic Stress

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.

Social Distancing

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/

The Power of Optimism

Isabelle Kreydin

When you go through a traumatic experience, the time it takes to recover is immeasurable and flooded with uncertainty. It could be anything between a breakup, abuse, a car accident, a loved one’s death, or even your entire childhood. When you acquire a mental illness, or know someone who has, it truly does affect every aspect of your life. Even stress, can alter brain chemistry and one’s way of life. But brokenness is not beautiful because of the way you are, but the way you will be when you are finally free.

You might feel alone. But you are alone because you feel as though are burdening others with your pain, and now are trying to reassemble yourself on your own and trying to fight the mental illnesses from becoming you. You’re trying but right now you are physically and mentally exhausted. It’s a tiring work of progress, but the only way out of the tunnel is through, and we know better than to turn around or take steps backwards.

It is easy for the brain to resort to the cloud that a trauma or illness might have installed in you, falling into despair or numbness, and there is truly nothing worse. Isolation is not the key, though it is most commonly a side effect of any of these negative experiences. Despite contrary belief, this leads you to an opportunity to get help. To find help within friends, family, and professionals. They can only help you understand that although you may not always be able to feel it, there is so much love and beauty to this world. There will ALWAYS be people there for your support. If you don’t feel this way, go out and make new friends, talk to your therapist, reach out to adults you may trust, or even kind strangers. The world has more love to offer than it seems.

Optimism is tough. You can be fighting for your body and thoughts to be positive, and have an outlook on life that shows light. However, your brain and body may be inflicting darkness, or feelings of nothingness, completely out of your control.

Optimism is also a savior. The more you put this fight into your brain, the more you convince yourself that you are going to make it, that everything will be okay, the more likely it is for your body to start behaving this way. Get up and force yourself to make plans, to do anything you once enjoyed or might find joy in.

The world may be falling a part in many aspects, and so are some humans that occupy it. However, everybody is still on this earth giving their full efforts to find the ultimate goal, happiness. It should not be overthought; it should not become the only purpose one strives for. It should be a feeling that comes through every day activities, thoughts, conversations. Positivity can help motivate the brain to feel that happiness, to appreciate the times it is felt, to hope for more positive outcomes and experiences. These can come from setting goals, making friends, loving, giving, being active, showing compassion, pursuing passions, treating oneself, or even physically seeing the beauty this world has to offer.
Life is too short to not love with everything you are. Giving with little return is tough, but you are tougher and have years to be given what you give.

Together, with optimism, have those around you help you rewrite your story and your future, and remember that it is okay to not be okay. There are billions that have struggled, there are millions that are fighting to overcome, and there are millions that have overcome and become a light and inspiration to us all.

You are never alone, and it will be worth it when you reach the end of that tunnel or even when you begin to see the light.

If you are struggling with substance abuse or any other kind of addiction, the psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help.  Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.