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The Effect Of COVID-19 On Suicidal Ideation From Increasing Mental Health Illnesses

Special Issue: Suicide Prevention Month

Studies in the US stipulate that over 90% of suicide victims have a psychiatric disorder according to Dr. Sher (2020). With the majority of suicide victims having psychiatric conditions, numerous findings have elucidated that the COVID-19 pandemic is associated with the rising suicide rates in the United States.  For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic is associated with stress-related psychiatric conditions including anxiety, fear, depression, isolation, and chronic stress as a result of the recent toll on mental health during 2020, eliciting the overwhelming transition to life through the course of the coronavirus pandemic. These result in suicidal tendencies perceptible from ideation. Mayo Clinic (2020) cements the idea that suicidal thoughts are the result of feeling that one can’t cope or recover when faced with an overwhelming life situation. Millions have lost their jobs, homes, and family members thus increasing stress. Depression alone is a major risk factor for suicide, accounting for up to 60% of suicide deaths. (Sher, 2020). Two effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that result in mental health illnesses and conditions are the US unemployment rates as a result of economic uncertainty, and social isolation from quarantine social distancing regulations. The impact contributes to long-term effects on the mental health of Americans. Ultimately, one can postulate that the increasing mental health illnesses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in suicidal ideation to increase in the US.

A significant effect of the coronavirus pandemic are the factors leading up to mental health conditions, consequently changing people’s lifestyles. The economic uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic has been associated with stress-related disorders and suicide. Suicide mortality peaked because of unemployment during the Great Depression’s recessionary years. In fact, 2020 has been proven to be the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, where the U.S. unemployment rate rose to 14.7%, putting over 20.5 million people out of work in April (Bartash, 2020). This has proved to be the most rapid labor market decline in history. After delving deeper into the article by United States financial and business news broadcaster,  Market Watch, one can deduce that economic downfalls have been associated with mental health disorders and suicides because an increase in the unemployment rate has been associated with higher prevalence of depression and suicidal deaths primarily because of the financial hardships and  job insecurities.  Marla Frezza, a New York City-based bartender asserts, “I’ve been dialing unemployment […] since March 15th. I’m in tears some days when I’m at 100 dials to unemployment and on hold for six hours and then they hang up on you” (Hess, 2020). The author espouses that the increasing severity of rising unemployment rates takes a toll on peoples’ mental health, endangering the lives of millions of Americans. This notion is advanced in another study by illustrating that the depression rate for those who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more is 18%, nearly one in five. The study further adduces that unemployed Americans are more than twice as likely as those with full-time jobs to be treated for depression (Rosen, 2014). The impact of this is that depression accounts for more than half of all suicides, therefore the coronavirus pandemic directly links to the increase of mental health illnesses, contributing to suicidal ideation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in social isolation which has increased due to quarantine and social distancing. Efforts to reduce the spread of coronavirus has increased the prevalence of social isolation and loneliness as a result of stay-at-home orders, which have contributed to depression and anxiety disorder. The author accentuates this idea by providing preliminary research within the first month of COVID-19, delineating that loneliness increased by 20% to 30% and emotional distress tripled. This posits that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread health effects subsequent to social isolation and loneliness. Furthermore, the CDC delineates that symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorder increased in the United States by 31% from April-June of 2019 to 2020. The data shows that the prevalence of symptoms for anxiety disorder was nearly 3 times and the prevalence of depressive disorder was nearly 4 times that of 2019. Studies also showed that twice as many respondents of the survey reported serious consideration of suicide over the past 30 days than they did in 2018 (CDC, 2020). As a result of the chaos during the COVID-19 pandemic, suicidal ideation has severely worsened and increased because of the stress, fear, anxiety, and depression that has increasingly taken a toll on people’s lives. This is further proven as the COVID-19 pandemic caused a 47% influx of calls made to suicide hotlines in the US (Krafcik, 2020). Thus, psychiatric conditions including anxiety and depression that have arisen as a result of isolation are associated with suicidal behavior.

Coronavirus and Social Distancing: Take Steps to Counter the Loneliness -  The New York Times

As a result of the distressing effects caused by the lifestyle changes amidst the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a prevalence of psychiatric conditions contributing to the rise of suicidal ideation. This has proven to lead to many long-term mental health repercussions including psychological effects from those who have already overcome the coronavirus, and a surge in panic and anxiety as a result of fear caused by the uncertainty of the severe virus. Martha Barrera from Orange County, New York got the coronavirus and then overcame it. She now experiences night terrors and lays awake between 3 AM and 7 AM, worried that she might stop breathing. She further expresses, “I have never felt so alone or scared” (Miller, 2020). This stipulates that patients who have encountered COVID-19 experience social isolation and fear or survival, which increases the severity and number of mental health illnesses, reflecting that COVID-19 results in long-term psychological effects. Healthcare workers are another example as they are at higher risks of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD rates have reportedly ranged from 10% to 20%, with even up to 30% among Intensive Care Unit staff (Carmassi et al., 2020). To postulate, health care workers tend to be at higher risk for PTSD because of the highly stressful work environment and situations they are exposed to such as frequently witnessing death and trauma. Furthermore, the International Journal of Medicine found that a 49-year old head of the Emergency Department in a New York City hospital died by committing suicide after telling her family about the tremendous suffering and death she witnessed while taking care of coronavirus patients. (Sher, 2020). This information illuminates the idea that those who have encountered the coronavirus are likely to suffer from long-term repercussions (e.g., PTSD). The other long-term mental health effect caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is panic and anxiety as a result from fears of uncertainty. Renée El-Gabalawy, a clinical psychologist, explained that panic will be higher among people who have not encountered the coronavirus since any bodily change will cause fear and be viewed as threatening (Miller 2020). For example, the fear of potentially having the coronavirus because of mutual, common symptoms such as respiratory illnesses and fever will cause panic, increasing the likeliness and frequency of mental health episodes. Intensified mental health illnesses, including long-term conditions, can result in suicidal ideation since stress, anxiety, and depression are all linked to suicidal tendencies.

 The long term impact of coronavirus on people is that they will experience mental health illnesses, even after the virus is over. The severity of mental health illnesses makes it imperative that in order to cope with the effects of COVID-19, mental health conditions should be regularly monitored. If left undealt, the prevalence of suicidal ideation may increase because of increasing symptoms such as panic, anxiety, stress, and depression. Increasing psychological conditions from the COVID-19 pandemic include effects of unemployment rates and social isolation, which have all been linked to suicidal ideation. Moreover, stress relating to the COVID-19 pandemic causes long-term PTSD, which increases the likeliness of suicidal ideation and other severe health illnesses linked to suicidal tendencies. All in all, the coronavirus pandemic has intensified mental health illnesses, causing suicidal ideation in the US to increase. 

References

Sher, L. (2020). The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on suicide rates. QJM: An International Journal of Medicine, 113(10), 707-712. https://doi.org/10.1093/qjmed/hcaa202 

Mayo Clinic. (2020, August 6). COVID-19 and the risk of suicide. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/covid-19-suicide-risk/art-20490350 

Bartash, J. (2020, May 8). Coronavirus costs the U.S. 20.5 million jobs in April as unemployment soars to 14.7%. Market Watch. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/coronavirus-costs-the-us-205-million-jobs-in-april-unemployment-soars-to-147-2020-05-08#:~:text=The%20numbers%3A%20The%20coronavirus%20pandemic,crisis%20in%20almost%20a%20century 

Hess, A. (2020, April 22). Fired over text, 800 calls to unemployment: What it’s like losing your job in the coronavirus pandemic. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/22/what-its-like-being-unemployed-because-of-coronavirus.html 

Rosen, R.J. (2014, June 9). The Mental-Health Consequences of Unemployment. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/06/the-mental-health-consequences-of-unemployment/372449/

Holt-Lunstad, J. (2020, June 22). The Double Pandemic Of Social Isolation And COVID-19: Cross Sector Policy Must Address Both. Health Affairs. https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20200609.53823

Barger, L.K., Christensen, A., Czeisler, C.A., Czeisler, M.E.,  Facer-Childs, E.R.,

Howard, M.E., Lane, R.I., Njai, R., Petrosky, E., Rajaratnam, S.M.W., Robbins, R., Weaver, M.D., Wiley, J.F. (2020). Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic-United States, June 24-30, 2020. CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 69(32), 1049-1057. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm 

Krafcik, M. (2020, July 17). Calls to suicide hotlines rise during COVID-19 pandemic. CW7 Michigan. http://cw7michigan.com/news/local/calls-to-suicide-hotlines-rise-during-covid-19-pandemic 

Miller, A.M. (2020, April 23). Coronavirus patients are suffering from anxiety and panic attacks. Experts worry the psychological effects could linger. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-patients-and-survivors-suffer-from-panic-attacks-anxiety-2020-4  Bertelloni, C.A., Bui, E., Carmassi, C., Cordone, Annalisa., Dell’Osso, L., Dell’Oste, V., Foghi, C., (2020). PTSD symptoms in healthcare workers facing the three coronavirus outbreaks: What can we expect after the COVID-19 pandemic. NCBI. https://dx.doi.org/10.1016%2Fj.psychres.2020.113312