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Is COVID-19 Lockdown Increasing Suicide Mortality? A Study Based Approach

COVID-19 lockdown has affected the livelihood of many people worldwide. A study published on 3 April in a journal named JAMA Psychiatry says that in addition to the COVID-19 deaths due to infection or illness, people are also dying of suicides due to the fear of infection, lack of freedom, loneliness, exhaustion, hunger, lack of livelihood and denial of medical care.

The lockdown has mainly affected the lower-class people of the society that includes labourers, farmers and daily wagers. The sudden implementation of lockdown and its extension have made them deprived of many livelihood resources like food, forcing them to take their own lives. Not only the poor, but people from every social class have been affected. Take a look at a few reasons responsible for the increase in suicide mortality amid COVID-19 lockdown.

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1. Economic Stress

Closed businesses, cancelled public events, a decline in public consumption and lockdown of export-import services is some of the primary reasons for economic stress leading to recession. A lot of businesses are facing adversity in the functioning, and thus laying off employees or cutting down their salaries. Also, the drop in the stock market has resulted in a decline of retirement funds or other funds leading to high suicide rates during the period. [1]


2. Decrease Of Religious Support

According to a study published in the journal Suicide Life Threat behaviour, people who are involved in religious activities have lower risks of suicide compared to people who are not. A hypothesis also says that belief in one's religion provides protection against suicidal behaviour and attempt due to relation with social support. [2]


3. Social Isolation

Social isolation or distancing has introduced a lot of anxiety in people across the world. People with existing mental conditions like depression and older adults are more vulnerable to suicides or suicidal thoughts. The lockdown has disrupted the normal social lives of people and introduced psychological fear in them followed by the fear of being trapped. Also, the continuous update of death rates due to COVID-19 on social media platforms are worsening mental stress in people, forcing them to take a step towards suicide. [3] A study states a case description of two people who have started self-harming behaviours without any history of mental illness. [4]


4. Restrictions To Healthcare

With an increase in COVID-19 infected and death rates, overcrowding of patients at hospitals have increased at a faster rate with no or minimal place for patients with other disorders. Many appointments and regular therapies have been cancelled due to limitations on mobility or the diversion of medical experts towards COVID-19 patients. Reduced access to mental healthcare has become a barrier in their treatment, leading to a negative effect on patients and an increase in suicidal ideation. [5]


5. Medical Conditions

The WHO has published it before that elders and people with existing medical conditions are more prone to COVID-19 infection. This has increased the fear and anxiety in people with positive COVID-19 who are also suffering from a certain medical condition. Those people have got into the dilemma that COVID-19 will complicate their health more and will cause them to die soon. The thought of hopelessness and considering oneself worthless have led to the onset of depressive symptoms, introducing suicidal thoughts in many. [4]

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How To Prevent

  • Practice physical distancing, not social distancing.
  • Increased access to mental healthcare or the introduction of other ways to provide medical experts to needed patients.
  • Remote-based suicide prevention methods like telephone, mail and follow up on required patients.
  • 24/7 hotline for reporting mental conditions followed by steps taken to provide people with their needed help.
  • A shared platform where people with similar conditions can share their experience. It will help others understand and support one another.
Story first published: Thursday, May 7, 2020, 17:00 [IST]