GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services released a report that predicts a 32% increase in statewide suicide rates as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Authors of the report offer a range of concrete solutions to address the risks and call on Michigan healthcare providers, public health officers, policy makers, funders, payers and the public to take immediate action.
“The impact of this pandemic has created a kind of a perfect soup of ingredients that can increase suicide,” Scott Halstead, Director of Outpatient and Recovery Services at Pine Rest said. “People’s supports things that they normally rely on just for good mental health those are more distant. You can’t have the same kind of connection with friends and family.”
Halstead, who also contributed to the report said in some cases people are also dealing with more stress than they’re used to.
“People at home with kids are really burdened by trying to do their full-time job and also trying to work with kids to teach them, so people are much more stressed out in that way,” Halstead said.
He said it’s possible for people to even develop anxiety and depression as a result of the pandemic, even if they’ve never experienced it before. For people who struggled with mental health prior to the outbreak, it could get even worse for them.
“Suicide is like the, it’s like the worst case, but because the risk is going up we really want to get ahead of that,” Halstead said.
One of the keys to mitigate that possibility, is awareness.
“If you’re not sleeping, if you’re not eating right. For some people, they’re drinking more or they’re using drugs, or they’re more irritable or they’re having relationship problems or they’re finding that it’s harder for them to get out of bed in the morning or they can’t sleep at night, those are all warning signs,” Halstead said.
For people who might have been receiving care or treatment, he said there’s a good possibility those services are still being offered virtually. Pine Rest still offers services online. In addition, the state provides Free or Low Cost Mental Health Care. There are also many companies offering online therapy.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. The number for the Crisisline is 1-800-273-8255.
If you are experiencing any of the warning signs, you’re encouraged to get help. “Anxiety and depression are treatable,” Halstead said, adding, that it’s also important to check in on your
loved ones during this time.