Several times over this past month, I have seen a friend of a friend on Facebook that has taken his or her own life, and my heart has immediately dropped in my chest. I stop and think about how that person’s spouse, parents, or children must be feeling: heartbroken, devastated, and filled with grief. Were there warning signs? Had this person reached out for help? Did this person know that most people who are contemplating taking their life are doing much better in 6-8 weeks after reaching out for help?
Perhaps, like me, you know of a friend of friend that has recently committed suicide, or you might even know someone personally who has recently taken his or her life. As our lives have faced uncertain and extremely stressful circumstances, some people feel as if it is too much to bear. Those who already struggle with mental health issues begin to feel as if everything is closing in on them and that they have no escape. Suicide rates vary across the country, but in some places the rate of suicide has doubled and even tripled since pre-COVID days.
There are many factors that experts feel are contributing to this increase in the suicide rate. Some of these include:
1. Economic Stress – The pandemic has caused many people to lose their jobs, close their businesses, and be forced to move to more affordable housing. History shows us that when the economy struggles, the suicide rate increases. Many struggle to find a sense of self worth when a lifelong career abruptly ends, others live in despair as they worry how they will provide for their families. These life stressors become extremely overwhelming for some people.
2. Social Media and Mainstream Media Influences – It is hard to turn on the news or scroll through social media without becoming overwhelmed with negativity. Many of us are way too “plugged in” to social media and mainstream media outlets. While it is important to keep up to date with what is going on, many are not protecting themselves from the psychological dangers of flooding their minds with constant negative and pessimistic news that seems to permeate the world today.
3. Social Isolation – Many people have been forced to be alone. People have pulled away from their support groups, churches, families, and peer groups for fear of contracting COVID-19 and to protect their loved ones. This has caused a big increase in feelings of isolation and depression. When people begin to feel alone and isolated, thoughts of suicide often begin to occur.
4. Mental Health Treatment Barriers – Hospitals and emergency rooms have taken priority in receiving emergency funding and equipping as they treat COVID-19 patients. Mental health facilities, however, have not been given much help during this time. Many have had to close their doors due to health concerns, and others have had to close due to economic reasons. Other people have not reached out for mental health help during this time, because they are uncomfortable with virtual counseling sessions or meeting in-person. These issues have caused a true concern in the mental health field as people who need help are not seeking it and getting it at this time.
5. Not Taking Suicide Seriously – If someone you know mentions thoughts of suicide, you should take it seriously. Often people don’t know what to do if someone mentions suicidal thoughts, and they don’t act immediately. If someone you know mentions thoughts of ending his or her life, encourage them to call the National Suicide Hotline or get to the nearest Emergency Room where they are safe and can receive help. Talk or thoughts of suicide should never be taken lightly and should always be addressed immediately.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please seek help right away. Research shows that when people seek help and undergo therapy for 6-8 weeks, their suicidal thoughts diminish significantly. The therapists at Water’s Edge Counseling have helped many of their clients work through suicidal thoughts and depression and have helped them rediscover a life of joy and purpose. If we can help you or someone you care about, please reach out to us at 912-319-5552. We are here for you!