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Feb-04-2021 14:54printcomments

Why Suicides Are Rising During COVID And What We Can Do To Help

Mindfulness has been shown to help learn to live in the present

don't give up
Just keep going. Keep doing the things that make you feel good, and you will be more able to help others.

(SALEM, Ore.) - If you are having a hard time coping with everything going on in the world, you are not alone. In fact, billions of people are struggling in some way.

The fact that this has been reflected in suicide rates during the pandemic is not surprising. While suicide is not usually attributable to one particular issue – depression is an illness rather than an emotion – difficult external factors contribute to its likelihood.

Strangely, suicide rates in many countries dropped during the first months of the pandemic. This may be due to the experience of everyone coming together virtually for mutual support. However, as the months have passed and COVID-19 has shown no signs of going away, suicide rates steadily increased again.

Isolation is one of the clearest reasons for an increase in depression and suicide. Loneliness is an epidemic even during normal times.

Without friends and family around, it is easy to get trapped in your own thoughts and start feeling despondent. But the increase in suicides goes beyond isolation. Even those who are hunkering down with loved ones and regularly speaking to friends are struggling.

We need to examine the reasons for the increase in suicides during the pandemic if we are to understand how to help prevent it.

The prevalence of death

One of the factors that is impacting the mental health of people around the world is the prevalence of death during the pandemic.

Most people living in first world countries have to confront death once in a while. Loved ones pass away, and their deaths lead to intense sadness and grief, but this usually occurs in isolation.

COVID-19 has changed that for many people. Depending on where a person lives and their demographic, it is possible to know a large number of people who have died in a short space of time.

The enormity of the feelings caused by these losses is constantly compounded, until the person is overwhelmed, the subsequent numbness a factor in causing depression.

It is not just the grief that contributes to depression. Rather, the constant presence of death leads to introspection about one’s own inevitable death.

Death anxiety and the existential questions surrounding it are common issues brought up by people suffering from depression.

COVID-19 has made us all confront death in a more personal way than ever before. Without the support and coping mechanisms to deal with this, rates of depression and suicide unsurprisingly rise.

Financial strife

Of course, the pandemic has not just caused health issues and death. It has led to countries worldwide having to shut down their economies in an attempt to contain the spread.

While this has been necessary to save lives, it has led to tremendous financial strife. Hundreds of thousands of American businesses have permanently closed, leading to millions being left unemployed.

Don't give up 'cause you have friends Don't give up You're not the only one Don't give up No reason to be ashamed Don't give up You still have us Don't give up now We're proud of who you are Don't give up You know it's never been easy Don't give up 'cause I believe there's a place... There's a place where we belong
*Songwriter: Peter Gabriel*
The government has provided some support, but it has not been nearly enough for many individuals and families left destitute. This kind of hardship does lead to despair and depression, which increases suicide rates.

Work is also a huge source of self-esteem for adults. People left without work and few prospects in a closed economy start questioning their purpose and the meaning of life.

The longer people go without employment, the more difficult it becomes to motivate themselves. They stop doing the things that make them feel good and their sense of emptiness grows.

Since low motivation is a symptom of depression, the sense of lethargy and detachment is only compounded.

Access to mental health care

Unfortunately, while the pandemic has led to an increased need for mental health care, it has also made access more difficult. Some people don’t see the value in teletherapy. Others do not have that option, due to a lack of space and privacy at home.

There is also the fact that many health insurance providers are neglectful of mental health. Of course, many Americans have had their health insurance lapse, and are in no position financially to afford to pay mental health providers.

We’re left in a situation in which access to mental health care is more difficult than ever while also being more important than ever. Without the necessary care, severe depression often leads to suicide.

Seeing as the above environmental factors are out of our control, what can we do to help prevent suicide rates from rising further?

Confronting death

Death is a natural part of life that we nonetheless prefer never to think about. But avoidance does not make death go away. It only leaves us unprepared when we lose a loved one or face our own health crisis.

On the contrary, confronting and accepting death as a reality makes it possible for us to come to peace with it.

The easiest way to begin changing your attitude to death is to actually deal with the practicalities. Many people attain a sense of calm when they plan for what will happen when they die. They get to play a part in what will happen to their loved ones, even though they won’t be there.

Life insurance is quite important, even for people who are still young. Even during normal times, death can be sudden. With life insurance, you know your family is taken care of.

It is also hugely important to craft a will. Your will contains instructions for what you want for and from your loved ones when you die.

You can choose how you want to be laid to rest and remembered. You also ensure that there will be no fights over inheritance due to a lack of clarity from your end.

You don’t have to pay a lawyer to write your will either. You can use “do your own will” software for free online. Since a will is, in its essence, a very simple document, algorithms are able to put together your requests within a legal framework.

In terms of confronting death on an emotional level, that is more difficult. However, mindfulness has been shown to help learn to live in the present, comfortable with the knowledge that death will come in the future.

There are some great mindfulness apps, like Headspace and Calm, that make mindfulness easily accessible, even if you cannot get access to mental health providers.

While these apps are no substitute for therapy, they can go a long way to helping you and others come to peace with what is going on around us.

Improving mental health care access

If you or your loved ones are struggling to access mental health services because of discomfort or mistrust of teletherapy and other technological innovations, you can take the time to get used to the various platforms.

Apps like BetterHelp are incredibly intuitive to use. They make therapy very accessible and somewhat more affordable. Helping older relatives or those who are not tech savvy to access therapy this way helps ensure they are not left without support from professionals.

Finally, coming together again like we all did at the beginning of the pandemic will help. We all got a little weary of video calls, but they nonetheless provide an important outlet to manage our isolation.

Suicide rates are increasing. Finding your own support, and providing it for your loved ones, is more important than ever.

Source: Special Features Dept.


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