Analysis: Suicide Rates Expected to Rise as COVID-19 Pandemic Pushes Americans into Isolation and Economic Disparity
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep the globe, Americans are forced into unemployment, business closure and stay-at-home orders in an attempt to flatten the curve. Faced with an uncertain future for residents and their families, COVID- 19 has taken a dramatic emotional toll on citizens nationwide.
Roughly 33 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the start of the coronavirus. Most businesses, schools, and workplaces, unless deemed essential, were forced to close or limit the number of people that can gather in public, leaving businesses struggling financially as they try to ride out the effects of the pandemic.
Over 100,000 small businesses, America’s driving force in the economy, have been forced to close permanently as the pandemic continues to take its toll. Although most states have begun to lift the lockdown, other states are having to expand their lockdown for much longer, leaving many workers with an uncertain future.
According to the United States Chamber of Commerce, it is estimated that “more than 40 percent of the nation’s 30 million small businesses could close permanently in the next six months.”
COVID-19 has placed an emotional and mental strain to the emotional and mental well-being of individuals worldwide.
In March, the Disaster Distress Helpline, a sub-network to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline , a hotline dedicated to providing disaster crisis counseling, saw a 338% increase in call volume compared with that of February 2020 when government officials took radical measures to mitigate the spread of the respiratory virus.
The Disaster Distress Helpline is operational 24 hours a day, to be connected to a trained counselor individuals can call, 1-800-985-5990, or even text, TalkWithUs to 66746. All callers can remain anonymous and can call on behalf of someone else.
The Crisis Text Line also reported a 40 percent increase in crisis texts since March, with one in five texts specifically related to COVID-19.
The lockdown has become the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The Great Depression lasted from 1929 to 1939, marked by declines in industrial production, mass unemployment, and increases in rates of poverty and homelessness.
During the peak of the Great Depression, suicides increased rapidly in the United States. In 1932 rates rose a record high, when there were 22 suicides for every 100,000 people, up from 18 per 100,000 in 1928. This was documented to be the largest increase in suicides in American history.
A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported suicide rates in the United States tend to rise and fall with the economy. Former Congressman Patrick J Kennedy reported that “calls at suicide hotlines have increased by 800 percent as resources shift to COVID-19 relief.”
As Americans are faced with economic depression, financial instability, forced social isolation, combined with fear for the future, many are questioning: is the U.S. prepared to handle what may be our country’s next major crisis?
If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.