As hardship related to the public health crisis continues into the second half of 2020, there is a societal mental health crisis looming. The most jarring marker of the virus’s toll on mental health will begin to present itself in the suicide rate. The impact of Covid-19 on these rates give specialists a sense of how extended uncertainty and anxiety affect people’s will to live. “There’s not only an increase in anxiety, but the more important piece is social isolation.” Matthew Nock, a psychology professor at Harvard continues “We’ve never had anything like this — and we know social isolation is related to suicide.” (Carey)
According to the World Health Organization “Close to 800,000 people die by suicide every year. Furthermore, for each suicide, there are more than 20 suicide attempts. Suicides and suicide attempts have a ripple effect that impacts families, friends, colleagues, communities, and societies. Suicides are preventable. Much can be done to prevent suicide at the individual, community, and national levels.” Personally speaking as a mental health professional and wellness advocate, wife, and mother of 3, I come across people daily who are suffering inside. Suicidal ideations do not discriminate so being aware of the warning signs is important along with taking other preventative measures to decrease the risk of death by suicide.
8 holistic approaches to suicide prevention:
Connect with those in your life. Check-in, be present, and let others know you’re there. Hint- Connect creatively if social distancing, utilize video calls and online communities. Strengthen your relationships with loved ones, self, and source.
Service to others. Volunteer work or mentorship is a great way to discover a sense of purpose while giving back in meaningful ways that make a difference.
Structure your days. Use a schedule and create a routine around things you enjoy.
Nature heals. Spend time outside when possible. Plants, animals, and water can also help us feel grounded. Utilize windows for natural light when inside.
Art and Music uplift the spirit. Sounds, colors, and vibrations have been used since the beginning of time to express emotion and communicate feelings we cannot easily put into words. Choose expressive art, uplifting music, or binaural beats.
Nutrition and Vitamins can dramatically affect your state of mind so eat and drink intuitively. Comfort foods are okay but make sure you’re getting the majority of your calories from energy-rich foods high in vitamins and minerals like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Iron, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and zinc are also important for keeping an elevated mood.
Wellness plans should include daily practices and activities that help to attune your mental, emotional, physical, social, and spiritual health.
Safety plans are a good precaution to put in place for family or friends so there is a plan to turn to if and when someone has thoughts of suicide or other self-harming thoughts of behaviors including active addictions or domestic violence.
It may or may not come as a surprise that you or someone you know and love is suffering. In the United States alone, 132 Americans die by suicide each day according to the 2020 United States Suicide Facts and Figures. In today’s uncertain world, more and more people are experiencing symptoms of depression and other related mental health imbalances. Symptoms are heightened at this time after months of “social distancing” and the majority of people are feeling uncertain about what is to come. This can cause anxiety in addition to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, extreme sadness, detachment from loved ones, loss of interests, or thoughts of self-harm, including suicidal ideation.
Suicidal Ideations are when someone suffering is thinking about, considering, or planning suicide. Ideations can range from fleeting thoughts to extensive thoughts, to creating a detailed plan to commit suicide. Once any of these thoughts are identified in oneself or others, it is important to seek support from loved ones and a qualified mental health specialist to put a safety plan and a wellness plan or treatment plan in place. At a time when social distancing is mandated, we get to approach connection more creatively. The connection can save lives so now more than ever, lean in, and be present with each other when times are hard.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.
Carey, Benedict. “Is the Pandemic Sparking Suicide?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 May 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/05/19/health/pandemic-coronavirus-suicide-health.html.
“Suicide Data.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 27 Sept. 2019, www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/suicideprevent/en/.
CDC, 2018 Fatal Injury Reports (accessed from www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/fatal.html on 3/1/20). Find additional citation information at afsp.org/statistics.
By Lea Hummel, Divinity Recovery