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COVID-19 and Suicide

What effect will the pandemic have on suicide rate? I suspect we will see an increase, but the numerous factors may include some that make us want to cling to life.

Social isolation vs. home with family: Many will have minimal contact with others for extended periods, but increased use of digital media may moderate the effect. Will increased exposure to conflicted relationships lead to more murder-suicides?

Economic and employment losses often lead to suicide: Will some enjoy not having to work, even considering the downside?

Changes in psychiatric treatment availability: Approximately half of suicides occur in those suffering from mental illness, regardless of whether the mental illness contributed to the decision to die. Will increased availability of psychiatric treatment via digital media outweigh the reduction in accessibility of emergency treatment and hospitalization?

Loss of family, friends: Will bereavement lead some to choose to die by their own hand? Or will they feel a need to remain behind to care for other survivors?

Access to methods: Many will have increased access to firearms, drugs, alcohol, hanging and other methods.

Physician practice changes: What impact will COVID have on the already rising suicide rate among physicians? Some will experience increased demand for their services under difficult conditions while others must postpone procedures.

Changes in availability of medical care: Patients with chronic medical conditions will have to suffer longer due to delays in diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, possibly extending the time they must rely on potentially addictive or toxic drugs.

What other factors could change the suicide rate?

Berry Edwards, MD

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