Why talk about suicide during this Pandemic?
In this time when our country is medically compromised and many people are financially stressed. A time when our country seems heavily divided politically. A time when many Americans are saying social injustice must end in our country. When the public is witnessing the world’s climate changing in ways it has never seen before. During this time many Americans are facing increasing numbers in home, wage and food shortages. Parents are in conflict over a child’s education and their work. A time where we see small businesses just holding on to stay alive. A time when America is getting close to 200,000 lives lost to a pandemic. A pandemic we cannot even as a country agree to work together to fight. The words uncertainty, confusion and hopelessness seem to become the norm. If there has ever been a time in our country for everyone to stop, take a breath and check on our family members and friends, the time is now.
Prior to the Pandemic America was told that one in five Americans suffer from some form of Mental Illness. That number was based on data collected from admissions to hospitals and psychiatric treatment centers across our country. Knowing that so many people never get to treatment, this number became quickly alarming. Some of the reasons people don’t get needed treatment are lack of funding, lack of area resources and centers and of course Stigma over mental illness. During this time of COVID 19 we are seeing people facing challenges that for the first time in their lives, they are suffering from clinical anxiety and depression. We are seeing many families having to deal with the quick and often traumatic loss of a love one to COVID 19. Added to the stressors we all face in this world today, compassion towards each other has never been more needed.
Most everyone becomes anxious in their life and most suffer from acute depression from time to time. When the symptoms of anxiety and depression get too complicated or cause people to have difficulty completing daily tasks. When relationships begin to fall apart or people find themselves isolating. When people are unable to work or attend school or volunteer activities. When these signs seem to be going on for more than a few weeks it may be time to get an evaluation. It could just start with a call to a primary care physician and even an evaluation at a local mental health clinic or private practice therapist. Sometimes it can help to talk with a trusted religious leader in your life or a best friend. But some person or relationship that allows you to feel comfortable to just talk about how you are feeling.
These are also times that are difficult for young people as they are faced with a lot of limits and the constant, “No you can’t”. Connection with friends is so important generally in a youth’s life but especially during these times. Finding safe ways for youth to communicate via telecommunications and well distanced events is so important. What is also important is to check on how they too are feeling. What are their worries and fears? Are they feeling real sad and trying to hide this from others. Youth are great at keeping secrets especially if they feel it will burden others.
Last, but never least, we must look at the older adults in our life. They have taken on the largest brunt of this pandemic. Not only in the number of older lives lost but what the isolation has done to so many of them. There is the inability to see family members (especially grandchildren) and at times being torn from spouses for hospitalizations. Sometimes they have not even been able to say good-bye to a loved one dying. The separations from friends have been devastating for so many. The fears they deal with every day and constant worry that does not seem to have an end. All of this is a sure foundation for anxiety and depressive disorders. We need to talk with them as often as we can to help them through this isolation.
So why on National Suicide Awareness and Prevention week should we look at all of this? The answer is quite simple. The largest factors leading to Suicide are untreated Anxiety and Depression. The effects of this Pandemic will scar many people with loss some due to COVID19 and some to suicide. Science tells us that we can control both. Until we have a safe antibody, we wear a mask, wash our hands, clean surfaces and socially distance. The way we stop suicide is create a safe environment that allows people to talk freely about suicide. Human beings by nature want to live. They do not want to die from COVID 19. They do not want to die as a result of suicide. People want to feel better. People want life without pain and to feel safe. People generally do not want to be alone. Because of all of this, there has never been a better time to take on these issues than now.
Take the time to check on family and friends. It can and will save a lot of lives.
To reach our greater Manchester Crisis team please call (800)688-3544. Other resources include; The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273 -8255; For info & resources from NAMI NH’s Connect Suicide Prevention Program, visit: www.TheConnectProgram.org