We know that COVID-19 has claimed more than 85,000 lives so far. While this is devastating for those individuals and families, national mental health organizations are warning that another crisis could be looming.
Well Being Trust & The Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care estimate that we could lose 75,000 more people due to “deaths of despair,” including increased drug- and alcohol-related events and suicides brought on by stress related to the pandemic.
They based their estimation on previous data combined with the anticipated effects of unemployment and financial instability, social isolation, and uncertainty. All three are among the top causes of drug misuse and suicide.
In my experience, stressful times do put people at greater risk of suicide and drug misuse. While getting financial help, connecting with friends and family regularly, and finding new things to be excited about may help, some people may not be able to see their way to these methods without additional help.
For those who have a history of mental health challenges, it is a good time to reconnect with your therapist remotely via telemedicine. Making this connection is important. Changes in conditions may warrant a change to your medications. Your therapist may also be able to recommend group teletherapy and online support groups that may be suitable for you.
If you have ever considered suicide, it may be useful to work with a friend or family member to make a safety plan. A safety plan is a document written during a time of wellbeing that guides someone when they are experiencing thoughts of suicide. It helps them avoid an intense suicidal crisis.
Safety plans can include warning signs, coping strategies, sources of support, ways to remove suicidal means from the environment, and reasons for living. It can be a comforting and stabilizing force that can help prevent slipping into a crisis. For complete information, visit https://www.suicideinfo.ca/resource/safety-plans/.
Local help can be found through United Counseling Service (UCS) in Bennington and Manchester. They have a wide array of services for people of all ages. All can be accessed with a single number: 802-442-5491. A Warm Line is available 8-5, Monday through Friday and can connect you with help even if you’re not quite sure exactly what type of help you need. Emergency services are available 24/7.
Those who are experiencing thoughts of suicide should get help right away by National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8355. If in immediate danger, call 9-1-1 or go to your nearest Emergency Department.
When we look out for our own mental wellbeing and that of our friends and family, we will find that we truly can make it through this. None of us is alone. Help is just a phone call away.
Doris Russell is the Assistant Director or Outpatient and Mental Health Services at United Counseling Service.