Did you know that 132 suicides occur in the U.S. per day?
That means every 11 minutes, a person dies by suicide and about 48,000 people die annually from it.
This is based on the CDC’s Statistics taken in 2018, so imagine how the suicide rate has changed in two years!
Not to mention the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on those rates.
September is Suicide Prevention Month and with a pandemic going on right now I think it is very important to help bring awareness to it.
This will be a 4 part series that will go over:
- The impact of COVID-19 on suicide rates
- What stressors can cause suicidal thoughts
- What the warning signs of suicide are
- What to do to help prevent suicidal ideation in yourself and your loved ones
Keep reading to find out 5 different ways the coronavirus has impacted suicide rates.
Disclaimer: I am not providing professional advice or acting as a psychologist. The information provided is from my own research and is being used to help bring awareness to the subject.
So how has the coronavirus impacted the suicide rate in America?
Well, statistics on suicide rate takes a long time to collect and publish, so the latest statistics on suicide in the US were recorded in 2018 by the CDC.
So, let’s look at those statistics and the risks that the CDC states can increase suicide.
According to the CDC:
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
- The suicide rate in the U.S. has increased by 30% since 1999
- 54% of those who died by suicide did not have a mental health condition
- 10.7 million people had suicidal thoughts
- 3.3 million people made a plan to commit suicide
- There were approximately 1.4 million suicide attempts in 2018
- The average amount of suicides per day is 132
Some risks factors that can contribute to the increase of suicidal thoughts and most correlate with what the public is going through this pandemic are:
- Being unemployed
- Loss (a person, a job, finances, etc.)
- Physical Illness
- Easy access to lethal objects
To add on to this list, the psychological distress this pandemic has inflicted on everyone is another risk factor.
A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a survey on how the coronavirus has impacted adults’ mental health.
The results showed that 53% of the adults felt that the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health.
They also reported issues with sleeping, eating, and increased their alcohol and substance use.
Some may assume that this is not prevalent, but the amount of distress that unemployment, a contagious virus, and social isolation brings can definitely deteriorate your well-being.
This could lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and worry which could result in suicidal thoughts.
For example, there was a case in April where a doctor who worked in the ER and had been working on the front lines since the outbreak started committed suicide due to being overwhelmed by the number of deaths she experienced.
Can you imagine the type of mental distress she went through while treating COVID-19 patients? It is unbelievable what healthcare professionals have had to endure this year and that needs to be recognized.
Now that we have discussed the mental impact of the coronavirus, let’s dive deeper into the risk factors we highlighted above.
5 Ways COVID-19 Has Impacted Suicide Rate
Although the coronavirus first arrived in late 2019, March is when the virus really burst the whole world’s bubble. This is when we all were told that we needed to self-quarantine.
So, with the requirement of self-quarantining, that led to only essential work fields to stay operated such as the hospital, the grocery store, and the fire department.
But that left everyone else having to shut down to avoid people being out and spreading the virus. This meant that people had to be working at home or not working at all.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 20.5 million people unemployed in May 2020 making it the highest unemployment rate yet.
20.5 million people! That is A LOT of people without a job which means they don’t have enough money to provide for themselves or their family.
This can cause a large amount of stress on anyone and the fact that the government only provided the country with $1200 to survive off of is the cherry on top.
Although many people got accepted to receive unemployment assistance funds, the process of waiting to be accepted took longer than usual due to an obvious surge in applications.
Alongside that, the government is considering lowering the amount of funds that are dispersed to unemployment assistance since they have provided $600/month to millions of people.
That is yet another factor that people have to stress about, especially the families who live in the lower and middle class.
It was a requirement to self-quarantine, so the entire pandemic IS isolation! When it was announced that we had to isolate ourselves from everybody, people went into a panic.
That first announcement ignited feelings of anxiety in everyone. We were also scared because it is not common where we have a virus takeover like this.
We are human beings and we love to be out and about, interacting with people.
And, all of a sudden, that was taken from us and it was hard to wrap our heads around how we will cope with it.
Connecting with others plays a major role in your emotional and mental health. So, it is scary to think of what your mental health will look like after months of isolation.
An unfortunate story of a young 19-year-old girl surfaced when it was announced that we had to self-quarantine.
She passed away at a hospital due to a suicide attempt because of the worry of the “mental health impact” of isolation during the pandemic.
All in all, being isolated from everyone is difficult and can cause you to feel lonely and depressed which can lead to suicidal thoughts.
There have been 189,000 deaths in the U.S. and 890,000 deaths worldwide from the coronavirus.
And that is over the span of 9 months!
That is 890,000 families that have had to grieve the loss of a loved one.
Having to cope with the loss of a loved one is very difficult to deal with. There are also families out there that have lost multiple people to the virus.
Dealing with that is a complete uphill battle by itself and can cause feelings of hopelessness, depression, and anger.
The doctor we discussed earlier not only had to deal with the psychological distress of the virus but also the loss of thousands of patients.
That is a traumatizing experience that can definitely make you feel hopeless.
She is just one healthcare professional. Think about the many more who were out on the front lines.
They all need support and we will discuss that more in this series.
Physical illness is not common among everyone, but it is prevalent because of the impact the virus has made on so many people’s health.
Having the common cold is stressful, but getting a virus that has stopped the whole world can be harder to accept.
For example, a 66 year old man in New York committed suicide in a hosiptal after testing postive for COVID-19.
There have also been a few cases where people thought they contracted the virus and committed suicide because of the possibility.
Many of those cases ended up with negative test results, but they were too afraid of the possibility of what could have happened if the test came back positive.
Physical illnesses that have the possibility of being fatal will ignite fear in people.
So, some may think they are better off ending their misery sooner which is very heart-breaking.
Access to Lethal Objects
Now that everyone is at home, access to lethal objects is higher.
For example, if you are busy at work, school, the store, the bank, and so on, you don’t have a lethal object around you all the time.
Whereas, being at home you have access to lethal objects 24/7.
Also, with being isolated this can improve thoughts of suicide due to feeling lonely.
As stated before, there were 3.3 million people who made a plan to commit suicide.
But not all of them went through with it. What if they didn’t go through with it because they didn’t have easy access to a lethal object?
Although this can seem like a minor factor in comparison to the others listed, this plays a major role in people going through with the act.
If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) any time of day or night or chat online.
I hope you found this article helpful! Leave a comment below on your thoughts on this subject!
Stay tuned over the next few weeks for the next 3 parts of this 4 part series dedicated to Suicide Prevention Month!
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