by Kevin Garrett
It is hard not to get depressed reading the media reports and watching the #pandemic play out in newscasts showing the many victims of #COVID-19. As the numbers of deaths and positive cases have risen in our communities, our spirits have fallen, pushed down even further by the necessary distancing from loved ones.
For those who are already experiencing #mentalillness, the #pandemic, with its forced #isolation, is an accelerant for self-harm and #suicide. These are the less reported, silent causalities of the #virus.
In the U.S., some states are reporting dramatic increases in suicides over the past three months. This is similar to the #suicide trends seen in past periods of economic #depression. A study done after the 2007 #GreatRecession showed a 1.6 percent increase in the #suicide rate with each percentage point increase in the unemployment rate. Other studies on the impact of recessions on #suicide rates show similar trends worldwide. With unemployment rates already exceeding the #GreatRecession, increased #suicide rates threaten a #pandemic of another sort.
Oregon is ranked 19th in the nation by the CDC for those who commit #suicide, with a total of 844 Oregonians taking their own lives in 2018. In 2019, more than 9 #women and 30 #men per 100,000 population in Oregon completed #suicide. These concerning statistics from Oregon well exceed the national averages (6 #women and 23 #men per 100,000), and are the most pronounced in rural areas, as well as with the very elderly, the middle-aged and teenagers. Nationally, #white and #NativeAmerican #males have the highest rates of #suicide, at least two times greater than #Asian, #Hispanic and #Black #Americans. Given the state’s population, Oregon has a fairly high-risk profile.
We all recognize that this #pandemic is traumatic. The best friend to #anxiety is uncertainty, and the best friend to #depression is #isolation. Conditions being created by the #pandemic are a breeding ground for increased #mental instability. The constant threat of exposure to actual or threatened serious illness from #Coronavirus is triggering a sense of hyper-vigilance in individuals, including some health care workers who are experiencing symptoms consistent with post-traumatic #stress disorder (#PTSD).
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
A role that each of us can play right now with our family and friends is to be an active participant in #suicideprevention for those you feel might be at risk. Follow this easy-to-remember approach and just ASK: Assess, See, Know.
ASSESS the situation. Is the individual negative, filled with worry and hopelessness? Do they seem depressed and anxious, finding it hard to complete simple daily tasks, such as bathing, getting out of bed, or eating? These are indicators that their mental and emotional health may be adversely affected.
Next, SEE if you can help. Those experiencing trauma, #depression and #anxiety may not see how adversely these symptoms are impacting their lives. It is often those closest to them who notice and express concern. If someone you know is experiencing #depression or heightened #anxiety, talk to them calmly about reaching out for professional help.
Then, KNOW what resources are available. Help them seek help. This includes contacting a primary care or other #doctor, a #mentalhealth agency, or professional therapist. During this #pandemic, most #mentalhealth specialists are offering virtual treatment such as telehealth. More urgently, if someone you know is having thoughts of #suicide, call the #NationalSuicideHelpline at 800-273-TALK (8255), or call 911.
The #isolation we all feel is very real, but even more acute for those at high risk of taking their own lives. Each of us can be a vigilant observer and early warning system for these silent victims of #COVID-19. Just remember to ASK. It may save a life.
Kevin Garrett, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at Oregon Institute of Technology (Oregon Tech) in Klamath Falls in the marriage and family therapy master’s degree program.