CV NEWS FEED // Eighteen months into the COVID-19 pandemic, World Suicide Prevention Day reminded participants from more than 60 countries Friday to check in with loved ones who have felt depressed under government-imposed quarantines.
Several articles about the Sept. 10 event focused in particular on black Americans, young people, and men, who have taken their own lives at particularly high rates in the era of COVID-19 lockdowns.
In an analysis of suicides in Maryland during the first six months of 2020, the height of COVID-19 quarantines, Johns Hopkins psychiatrist Paul Nestadt found that suicide-related deaths among black people in the state spiked by 94 percent between early March and May compared to the same time period during the three previous years. In contrast, suicides among White Marylanders decreased by 45 percent during the same period.
“This is obviously concerning, and it serves as a reminder that when we aggregate all of our data — thinking the population is homogeneous — we miss especially vulnerable populations,” said Nestadt, who co-directs the Johns Hopkins Anxiety Disorders Clinic.
Nestadt speculated that the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on black Americans, as well as racial justice movements, may have contributed to the spike, but added that personal struggles like divorce or addiction may also turn out to be contributing factors in future analyses of the data.
The World Health Organization reports that about 700,000 people overall, or 1 person every 40 seconds, take their own lives each year. Suicide rates in the U.S. alone climbed 35 percent between 1999 and 2018, according to CNN, which added that experts fear a rise in suicidal thoughts due to pandemic-related economic hardships and mental stress.
Clinical psychologist Pulkit Sharma told Pinkvilla, an Indian entertainment website, that parents should consult a doctor if young people go beyond a few sleepless nights caused by day-to-day stress into frequent insomnia.
“Stress has become a part of our lifestyle. No internet during work from home, we get stressed. Having to ask our boss for a leave, we get stressed. There are so many minor reasons that make us stressed. But if your stress levels are always high, there is an immediate need that you get yourself checked for anxiety or depression,” Sharma said.
Sharma added that too many people minimize mental health struggles as ordinary stress events.
According to a Men’s Health article on Great Britain, more than 3 in 4 registered suicides in 2020 occurred among men, a trend consistent in that country since the 1990s. But 53 percent of Brits reported to Movender in a recent survey that they lack the confidence to speak to male colleagues, friends, or family members they’re worried about.
“Today, World Suicide Prevention Day, serves as a timely reminder to reach out to our mates, colleagues, brothers, partners, fathers, nephews who may be buckling under the intense strain of these extraordinary times. It’s often said, but sparking that conversation may just save a life,” Annie Hayes wrote in the article.
As if to illustrate the point, an East London street artist recently unveiled a mural for World Suicide Prevention Day of Prodigy front man Keith Flint, who took his own life at the age of 49 in 2019.
Men who work in the corporate world remain at particular risk of suicide during these times of economic uncertainty, leading Forbes contributor Naz Beheshti to pen an eloquent appeal to business leaders Friday, urging them to treat mental health issues as “a matter of life and death.”
Kelly Hayes, writing for Fox-29 in Philadelphia, provided the following resources Friday for people concerned about themselves or their loved ones:
If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to civilians and veterans. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or text HOME to 741-741 (Crisis Text Line).
CLICK HERE for the warning signs and risk factors of suicide. Call 1-800-273-TALK for free and confidential emotional support.
Among other online resources, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention provides additional information about risk factors, protective measures, and warning signs on its website.