COVID Suicides and Other Mental Health Issues
In half a year, the COVID-19 global pandemic has wreaked havoc on the world: millions of documented infections and hundreds of thousands of deaths. However, the invisible impact of this disease is on mental health, which cannot be screened using temperature monitors or mitigated with face masks. As such, we are getting alarmingly more and more news about COVID suicides. On 27 April, Brad Hunstable shared on a Facebook video about his son’s suicide due to COVID isolation.
His son was a normal happy child who did not show any signs of depression, but because he was separated from his friends and his usual routine, he committed suicide just three days before his thirteenth birthday. Sadly, that wasn’t even the first case of a child committing suicide due to COVID isolation: a 15-year-old girl from a different state in the US hanged herself five days prior to Hayden Hunstable’s own suicide because of the stress from the health crisis.
Frontliners are facing the most stress
Frontline medical workers, facing the brunt of the crisis, are also not exempt from suicidal tendencies. Two medical workers committed suicide in April: a doctor and an emergency medical technician. Their stress was due to the workloads and deaths from COVID-19 that they had to personally witness on a daily basis.
COVID suicides will increase
Dr. Ruth Vine, Australia’s new deputy chief medical officer for mental health, predicts that COVID suicides would spike by 750 to 1500 deaths per year in Australia alone.
Other factors affecting mental health
Now, that is not to say that we should only watch out for signs of depression or suicide during the pandemic, as there are also other factors contributing to this issue. Cyberbullying is another contributor to diminished mental health that was introduced this century. Just recently, Japanese reality show pro-wrestler Hana Kimura committed suicide after an extended bout of cyberbullying on social media. She was 22.
Mind and body are just as equally as important
Mental health is just as important as physical health. Just because it’s not always visible doesn’t mean it can be ignored: learning to tell the signs if someone is feeling unwell, depressed, facing anxiety, etc. can help get that person much-needed help in time. It is high time that we all learn more about taking care of mental health as it is very much needed to keep us alive and well.
Please help yourself
No man is an island, and so if you need someone to talk to, there are people ready to listen to you. The Health Ministry’s Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre (CPRC) and Mercy Malaysia have launched a support hotline on 24 March for psychosocial support during the COVID-19 crisis. And you can be assured that you are not alone: up until the end of April alone, they have already received more than 800 calls on that hotline, and they’ve been receiving up to 200 calls per day.
If something is giving you a lot of emotional stress, you need to literally remove yourself from that source. You need to physically get away from whatever is stressing you out, even if it means applying for emergency leave or taking a self-imposed break from social media. After you have had time for mindfulness or self-recollection, seek out a counsellor or a psychologist to talk out your issues, see what changes to your lifestyle may be necessary to get you through that rough patch. It may even be an underlying medical condition that has yet to be addressed since physical health can also affect mental health and vice versa.
One thing that you can do right now is to reconnect with others using technology. You can chat with others using the internet, call up your friends over the phone, and even do video calls with people who want the best for you. Another thing that is important is to keep yourself physically healthy, as physical health has as much impact on mental health: three main physical factors that affect your mental health are exercise, diet, and whether you smoke or not.
Ignore the mental health stigma. Your life is more precious than what others think of you. Self-care isn’t selfish.
Here are a few more resources for getting emotional support during this time:
A psychosocial support service run by the Health Ministry, Mercy Malaysia and the Women’s Aid Organisation for frontliners and members of the public affected by the Covid-19 pandemic can be reached at 011-6399 6482,011-6399 4236 and 03-2935 9935 from 8am to 5pm daily.
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