(CBS/WVLT) — #COVID-19 has directly claimed tens of thousands of U.S. lives, but conditions stemming from the novel #coronavirus — rampant unemployment, #isolation and an uncertain future — could lead to 75,000 deaths from drug or alcohol abuse and suicide, new research suggests.
Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.
Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.
Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space. #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle
CBS news reported that deaths from those causes are known as “deaths of despair,” and the #pandemic may be exacerbating conditions that lead to them.
“Deaths of despair are tied to multiple factors, like unemployment, fear and dread, and #isolation. Prior to the #COVID-19 #pandemic, there were already an unprecedented number of deaths of despair. We wanted to estimate how this #pandemic would change that number moving forward,” said one of the study’s authors, Benjamin Miller. He’s chief strategy officer for the Well Being Trust in Oakland, Calif.
According to the Well Being Trust, more lives had been lost to deaths of despair in 2017 than ever before.
“The primary response at the time was to look at the opioid epidemic, but that didn’t even come close to cracking all of the issues of #mentalhealth-related to deaths of despair,” Miller explained.
Many things can contribute to deaths of despair, including #loneliness, #isolation, a lack of belonging, limited access to affordable #healthcare, systemic racism, trauma and financial concerns, like a lack of housing and food, according to the Well Being Trust.
The researchers pointed to several factors from the #pandemic that could make problems worse:
– The potential for a serious, even deadly infection from a previously unknown microbe.
– An unprecedented economic shutdown.
– Skyrocketing unemployment.
– Months-long #socialisolation (mandated in many states), sometimes with no set end.
– Uncertainty about treatment and prevention strategies.
According to the researchers, with rapid recovery and the smallest impact on deaths of despair, the #pandemic could lead to nearly 28,000 additional deaths of despair. However, a slow recovery combined with the greatest impact of unemployment could result in more than 150,000 deaths. Researchers believe that, most likely, the number of deaths will be somewhere in the middle with 75,000.
“The #isolation is causing people to lose boundaries on their behaviors,” Miller explained. CBS reported that with social norms set aside, some people are doing more things they wouldn’t normally, such as day drinking. Such habits could be hard to break, which could lead to alcohol abuse.
“Miller pointed out that the study is a projection, and projections can be imprecise. Plus, estimates can change for the better when people start tackling the problems,” CBS reported.
The researchers said the biggest way to help prevent some of these deaths is to get people back to work.
“People have to be working and we have to get people connected to other people,” Miller said.
He said improving access to #healthcare, including #mentalhealthcare, is also significant.
Dr. Elie Aoun, vice chairman of the American Psychiatric Association’s Council on Addiction Psychiatry, called the death projections shocking but not surprising.
“I’ve been seeing this in practices and my colleagues have been talking about it, too,” he said.
Aoun said social #isolation has more consequences for the many vulnerable patients who suffer from #depression, #anxiety and addiction.
“Addiction patients are relapsing, and a lot of patients who don’t have drug use or alcohol problems are drinking more now, sometimes every day from 4 or 5 p.m., and they don’t stop until they sleep,” he said.