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The Worst Effects of SARS-COV-2 may be on all of our minds: a mental health crisis due to the “lockdown”: JAMA Psychiatry

2020-04-13

isolation from Free-Photos courtesy of pixabay.com

This article from JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Psychiatry discusses at length the looming mental health crisis we all face because of our isolation and unemployment due to the novel coronavirus.  More than 20 million people (sorry, no reference for that number) have lost their jobs, and many of them are unable to access unemployment benefits because the state systems for registering have broken down.  Going to the unemployment office in person is impossible, and reaching the office by phone or internet is impossible, so that extra $600 a week is just a fantasy extolled by politicians.

Facing financial ruin and unable to commiserate with our friends, many people will be driven to the brink of suicide by this pandemic.  The physical toll in catastrophic illness and death will touch many older people, who would have been supported by their Social Security and retirement benefits if they had lived.  But young people and black or brown people will be faced with extreme financial and mental stress, not physical illness.  Coping mechanisms are vital to survival, and reaching out for help is necessary if you feel overwhelmed.  There are hotlines, but who will answer now?

Then there are the people with pre-existing health conditions who develop COVID and are treated with disrespect: “I feel like you sent me home to die.”  That’s what one patient told his doctor.  I’m not a doctor anymore, thank heavens.  I’m not sure I could treat all these stressed-out people with the calmness and reassurance that they need.  Some people are so naive and helpless that they can’t think of the simplest thing and ask absurdly obvious questions that put the “clinician” (health care provider) on the spot.

The most bizarre result of this pandemic in the US is the largest increase in firearm sales ever– more than was provoked by the election of Barack Obama.  Firearms are the most common method of suicide in the US, and despite a ban on research into firearm violence, it is apparent that easy access to a firearm is a risk factor for suicide.

A little-known bit of information: suicide rates in the Northern Hemisphere peak in late spring and early summer.  This happens to be that season.

We need more access to mental health care, especially through “tele-health”– that is, over the phone or via internet and applications like Skype.  There is no greater need than at this time.

The article referenced above lists the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK and claims that this line remains open.  I was afraid to call it and check because I don’t need help right now.  I hope it’s there when I need it.

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