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New literature review examines suicide risk during COVID‐19
Wiley: Observing that the current pandemic represents many challenges, including the chances of a significant increase in suicide risk, vigilance and care are needed for mental health well‐being to limit the spread of suicide, say researchers of a new literature review that examines the risk factors for suicide during the pandemic. Lesser‐known mental health issues, such as post‐traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), may also affect those infected with the virus and those who are not, they stated.
Observing that the current pandemic represents many challenges, including the chances of a significant increase in suicide risk, vigilance and care are needed for mental health well‐being to limit the spread of suicide, say researchers of a new literature review that examines the risk factors for suicide during the pandemic. Lesser‐known mental health issues, such as post‐traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), may also affect those infected with the virus and those who are not, they stated.
The research, “Review of Suicide Risk in the United States During the COVID‐19 Pandemic,” was published in Directions in Psychiatry and is considered by researchers to be one of the first to examine suicide risk and ideation during the pandemic. They consider their literature review a continuing medical education lesson to help clinicians identify risk factors and understand how COVID‐19 unfolded.
While many areas around the globe have already limited the spread of the virus, the United States is still struggling to implement relevant strategies — including stay‐at‐home orders, closure of indoor dining and entertainment spaces and limited close contact among individuals from different households — in a consistent manner across the nation, the study stated.
The result has been a prolongation and expansion of infection, which increases risk factors for suicide, including distress, insomnia, unemployment, isolation and an increase in the availability of firearms in the home. These factors can place a mental toll on the public, which can increase the incidence of suicidal ideation and attempts.
Researchers noted that previous disasters around the country have created troubling times for individuals, and the pandemic is no different. “We know that after every disaster there is an impact on the mental health of human beings,” Asim A. Shah, M.D., professor, executive vice chair and Barbara and Corbin J. Robertson Jr. Chair in Psychiatry in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and study co‐author, told MHW. “This is not a one‐day disaster; this is ongoing.”
The research is one of the first to examine suicide risk and ideation during the pandemic, said Shah, also chief of the Division of Community Psychiatry and professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine. “Globally, close to 800,000 people die from suicide every year,” he said. “That's one person every 40 seconds.”
The mental health issues, he noted, can last at least a decade. “Unfortunately, the mental health effects of Hurricane Katrina lasted more than four years,” Shah said. With Hurricane Harvey, the effects lasted about three years, he added. The mental health impacts of the pandemic have been ongoing since March 2020, he said. (The World Health Organization declared COVID‐19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020.)
Suicide rates are more pronounced in young adults from lesser‐developed countries compared with more developed countries, including the United States, where the rate is higher among middle‐aged and elderly individuals, the research stated. Depression and substance abuse (mainly alcohol use) were most strongly associated with suicide across the globe, researchers stated.
According to the study, depression has been associated with the greatest number of suicides, with rates highest among the elderly, demonstrating the significant contribution of mental illness to suicide. Physical health may also contribute to suicide, researchers said. For example, patients with cancer are twice as likely to commit suicide than the U.S. general population.
People more apt to experience suicide ideation are those experiencing depression, not enjoying life or talking to other people, getting angry, becoming irritable and using substances more, said Shah. “They may feel like life is not worth living,” he said.
People need to get the right help, Shah stated. “We need [to be aware of] warning signs and symptoms and what to look for,” he said >>>