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The importance of suicide prevention during the coronavirus pandemic

If you believe a loved one is struggling with their mental health, there are signs to look for - and ways you can help.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — From the early days of the pandemic, health experts have been worried not only about the physical impacts of the coronavirus, but also the impact the virus can make on a person’s mental health.

A study from the CDC in June 2020 found that 40% of people who completed the survey had experienced a mental or behavioral health condition related to the pandemic. 

About 26% had experienced an anxiety disorder, up from about 8% last year, and about 24% had experienced depression, which is up from 7% in 2019.

Almost 11% of people said they had considered suicide within 30 days of taking the survey.

Due to discrepancies in the reporting methods, it’s unclear how many suicides have happened during the pandemic, but local and national agencies said the number appears to be rising.

RELATED: Suicide prevention resources in Kentucky, Indiana

“What you’re going to experience in isolation situations is experiences like loneliness which lead to depression and anxiety,” said Nancy Brooks, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Louisville.

On top of the stresses of isolation and maintaining physical health, Brooks said the effects of the coronavirus on society, like loss of jobs, housing and businesses, can all take a toll on a person’s mental health.

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“These are all life-changing repercussions that have mental side effects,” she said.

If you are concerned about the mental health of a friend or family member, Brooks said to look for these warning signs:

Credit: WHAS

Warning signs:

  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Acting anxious or restless
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Mood swings
  • Substance abuse
  • Giving away possessions or pets

If you see these signs in a loved one, Brooks’s advice is to talk to them about it – don’t avoid it in fear of exacerbating the situation.

“We’re all afraid to talk about it, but I must emphasize that talking with your family member or your loved one about their mental health is not going to cause them to act on their feelings,” she said. “You’ve got to face the situation. You’ve got to recognize you’ve got a problem with that individual and talk to them.”

She said that after you have that tough conversation, don’t leave the person alone. She also recommended removing anything that they could potentially use to harm themselves – like pills, weapons or chemicals.

“The key is keep talking, and keep looking for intervention from professionals,” Brooks said.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, there is hope, and there is help. 

Click here for more local and national resources for suicide prevention.

Contact reporter Rob Harris atrjharris@whas11.com. Follow him onTwitter (@robharristv) andFacebook

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