The symptoms of possible COVID-19 exposure are well known to the public now.  Mental health experts urge the public to also keep in mind the warning signs of suicide that could be related to the pandemic.

“Damage to the economy in general causes damage to the lives of individuals,” said Chuck Johnson, NCC, ACS, LCPC, Administrative Coordinator, Behavioral Health Services, Blessing Hospital. “Some of those people may self-medicate with substances and may resort to suicide due to their losses. These situations are known as Deaths of Despair.”

A study recently released by the Well Being Trust and the Robert Graham Center looked at nine different scenarios related to relationship between deaths of despair and unemployment. The goal of the report was to predict the level of deaths of despair based on the effects of COVID-19. The study said additional deaths due to substance use and suicide could range from a low of 27,644 to a high of 154,037, with 68,000 as the middle point.

“As with COVID-19, people need to be vigilant,” Johnson continued.  “Pay attention to your loved ones’ use of alcohol and drugs, particularly those who have lost jobs. If you see something, say something. Their substance use could be a cry for help.”

“In addition, refresh your knowledge of the warning signs of suicide, as increased use of alcohol and drugs is a warning sign of suicide” Johnson concluded. “We are in this together, talking is a first step toward finding a solution.”

Other warning signs of suicide include:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

The phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.