Suicide and social distancing
METRO – Suicide is a significant issue across the globe. According to SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education), nearly 800,000 people die by suicide across the globe each year, and suicide is the second leading cause of death in the world for people between the ages of 15 and 24.
Suicide poses a significant threat every year, but that threat might be even greater in 2020. The global pandemic that resulted from the outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in the winter of 2019-20 led many governments to encourage their citizens to isolate to help prevent the spread of the virus. While such restrictions were necessary, a study published in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry in April 2020 noted that the secondary consequences of social distancing may include an increased risk of suicide.
The researchers behind the study noted that social connections play a key role in suicide prevention, which is why social distancing concerns so many mental health professionals. However, the researchers also emphasized that social distancing requires physical space between people, not social distance. By staying six feet apart and wearing masks when around friends and loved ones, individuals at risk for suicide can maintain the social connections that are so vital to their mental health.
SAVE notes that a lack of social support and a sense of isolation are a risk factor for suicide. But other factors also can increase suicide risk, and learning to recognize those risks can be especially important at a time when social distancing may be putting more people in jeopardy.
SAVE notes that risk factors do not cause or predict suicide. However, the presence of the following factors can increase the likelihood a person will consider, attempt or die by suicide.
— Mental disorders, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and certain personality disorders
— Alcohol and other substance use disorders
— Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
— History of trauma or abuse
— Major physical or chronic illnesses
— Previous suicide attempt
— Family history of suicide
— Recent job or financial loss
— Recent loss of relationship
— Easy access to lethal means
— Local clusters of suicide
— Stigma associated with asking for help
— Lack of health care, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
— Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma
— Exposure to others who have died by suicide (in real life or via the media and Internet)
People concerned about themselves or a loved one in crisis can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255 in the United States or contact Crisis Services Canada at 1.833.456.4566.