Covid-19: India Is Battling Against Suicide Crisis

The social and economic clefts exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic will lead to mass unemployment, homelessness, worn-out social safety nets, starvation, alcoholism, growth in gender-based violence, loan defaults and huge populace slipping into poverty. Many individuals would also be stressed to cope with uncertainty about when things will return back to ‘normal.’ This post-Covid scenario can turn into a fertile breeding ground for an upsurge in anxiety, depression, chronic stress, alcohol dependence, and ultimately self-harm; resulting in an overall rise in suicides, morbidity and the number of disability-adjusted life years associated to mental health.

As the Covid-19 endures to take lives across the world, there’s another public health crisis in the form of mental health problems that’s nurturing its ugly head. This new danger might maybe lead to more death and misery than the coronavirus itself.

Seeing the history of pandemics, and the knock-on impact of an unavoidable economic downturn, India is experiencing mental health turmoil, with suicide-related deaths as its main indicator.

Many mental health doctors in Mumbai are of the opinion that mental health and suicide owing to COVID has now turned into a second pandemic. At-risk populaces comprise of the 150 million with prevailing mental health problems, Covid-19 survivors, frontline medical workforces, differently abled people, women, young individuals, workers in the unorganized sector and senior citizens.

If we check the media reports, there has been a 50% rise in suicides in the preceding two months in contrast to those reported during the same phase last year. This is the indirect reflection of the effect of pandemic on suicide rates, making it a serious concern.

According to psychiatrist Dr. Chinmay Kulkarni from Mumbai Psychiatry Clinics, the reason for ending life is not just depression or anxiety. He said there could be several reasons such as Covid-19 stigma, employment loss, and other social problems. For most individuals, diagnosis of COVID and social isolation by itself can be quite difficult. In effect, social isolation is worse than the infection and thus proper care need to be taken to make sure all COVID positive patients do not get into self-harm. Counselling must be done in a holistic way encompassing the social aspects as well.

Support from folks who care about them, and re-gaining connection with their individual sense of culture, identity and purpose, can aid them to find a right way through.

If you’re concerned about someone, it’s time you reach out to them. Have faith in your instinct and communicate if you’re worried. Pick up the phone, drop a text, speak to them via social media and learn if they’re doing fine. Even though they are not living in your home or not been speaking to you for a while, discover ways to connect with them. Let them believe you’re there and constantly will be.

If you’re apprehensive, that they might be thinking about suicide don’t be afraid to ask them straight away. If someone indicates they are having thoughts or feelings about suicide directly or through their behavioral pattern, it’s important to not let go off.

While it can be challenging to check upon someone when we ourselves are amid self-isolation, there are certain signs you may notice. These comprise of:

  1. Changes to the manner of they talk (either over the phone, personally if they’re in your neighborhood and you happen to bump into them, or online through video calls/chats)
  2. Alterations in how often they communicate with you or post/upload on social media.
  3. Talking or writing regarding suicide, or wishing to die.
  4. Examining things that they could utilize to harm themselves
  5. Sudden variations in mood.

You can support someone by:

  1. Asking them if they may wish to talk about what’s happening in their life with you or anyone they are comfortable with. They might not want to open up immediately, but making them know you are available for them is a great help.
  2. Checking on them frequently.
  3. Try to make them calm, positive and hopeful that things will get better.
  4. Listening with empathy and with no judgement.
  5. Help them to find and examine the support they require from people they trust: friends, family or counsellors.
  6. Support them to get in touch with a professional help, like a mental health doctor or counsellor, as soon as probable. Although we are practicing social distancing right now, online counsellors and online psychologists are still available via phone and/or the video call.