Coronavirus and Suicide

It’s interesting to see how many experts there are in mental health these days as well as epidemiologists and virologists…

A message of hope to the Muslims feeling depressed with the current  oppressed state of the Ummah – Muslim Council of Hong Kong
(Image: MC of Hong Kong)

I really don’t enjoy when people use the likes of suicide rates to support their arguments and agendas. It’s not all about dry data but rather about real lives lost and real families suffering that devastation. NO suicide rate, whether it be increasing, decreasing, high or low is in any way acceptable. Prior to Covid-19 appearing in our lives, the UK experienced around 6,000 deaths by suicide with a figure of around 800,000 deaths worldwide.

As is often the case, figures do not tell the whole story though, suicide figures are complex for many reasons, for example the UK coroner system is inadequate for the close monitoring required for suicide statistics. Even though there hasn’t been a recent rise in completed suicides there remains a need for caution in adopting a stance that suicide figures won’t be affected by the pandemic.

A common public narrative is that suicides and self-harm have increased to epidemic proportions since Covid. These claims are not just misleading but also potentially harmful to those who are already struggling. Please think twice before spreading this type of misinformation. A claim last year was that suicide had increased by ‘200%’ and was posted some 31,000 times before being debunked and taken down.

So why are organisations such as the charity I am employed by and various surveys informing us that our mental health is deteriorating? How do we explain this contradiction? Well it’s true to say that as well as the risks there have been protective factors too. During earlier lockdowns there may well have been greater attempts from people in keeping in touch with and supporting each other. We have certainly been more alert to any possible crisese. Certainly I remember a greater community response to those in need. There may also have been a belief that Covid would ‘soon be over’ in some, leadig away from despairing thoughts.

Much of this has sadly, now disappeared with the needs of business and people’s livelihoods increasingly pitched up against the health of the public. The social help in communities has eroded since last year but yet, in this second year there are still significant risks. People are exhausted and pessimistic at every new lockdown or the prospect of one. Members of the public are reporting each other to the police and there is a more general lack of cohesion in the community. We need to continue to look after each other, especially regarding suicide ideation.

Most clinicians will tell you that recovery can be a dangerous time. In terms of restrictions being lifted we need to be careful. More than anything, we need to bring the compassion back into society in understanding and taking heed of people’s needs for support, especially where suicide and self-harm are concerned, not using lost lives to back arguments about the speed of restrictions being lifted.

Just my two-penneth on the situation though nobody asked me. I logged off work earlier and was on the point of ordering a cab to go to the hospital for my second jab when an individual texted me, in a bad way, so delaying my visit for the vaccination. He was in a bad way but is now being cared for, thankfully. That is the reality of this situation – not arguing about when you can get your gym open, if you can go inside a pub and get leathered for four hours or go on that Mediterranean holiday.

Have the gratitude that you’re healthy and actually want to live. it’s a great start.

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