As the United States settles into fall, fears that the coronavirus pandemic will worsen are coming true. Infection rates have spiked in the midwest and Great Plains. There’s a resurgence of COVID-19 in several neighborhoods in New York City, where restrictions tamed the virus’ spread after a tragic spring.
Yet mental health experts are also deeply concerned about another worrisome trend. An article published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association described a “second wave” of mental health and substance use disorders that threaten to inundate and overwhelm the healthcare system. Its authors, who are psychiatrists at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine, expect the surge to bring increased deaths from drug overdoses and suicides.
Deaths of despair and suicides have risen in recent years, and the pandemic has only intensified risk factors for substance use and suicide, which include social isolation, loss, and limited access to mental healthcare.
At the same time, the pandemic is revealing something critical about the nature of suicide, in particular. People, who may or may not experience mental illness or a mental health condition, can feel hopeless enough to take their own lives partly because they see no escape from circumstances that may deprive them of basic needs like food, shelter, and healthcare.
This complicates the widespread notion of suicide as the product of experiencing a mental illness or mental health condition. Through this lens, suicide is often considered a personal battle, and many people look to psychotherapy as a solution, minimizing the effect of external factors. The pandemic, however, has drawn attention to the role of policy choices like temporary protections against eviction, the linking of employment to health insurance, and the arbitrary suspension of federal pandemic unemployment payments in July, all of which have arguably intensified people’s despair.
Read the full article about how COVID-19 is linked to suicide by Rebecca Ruiz at Mashable.
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