In troubled times, many people take desperatesolutions. A new report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in April expresses concern over the potential increase in suicide due to the economic crisis, social exclusion, medical problems and other factors associated with the CoVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, experts from around the world are warning that ahead of us is a “much deeper and longer curve” as the psychological consequences of the pandemic are becoming more tangible. Experience from previous disasters shows that at least 20% of the population is at risk. However, in the past, suicide rates sometimes declined when people came together.
Second Great Depression
The Great Depression - the global economic crisis that beganin the fall of 1929 with the stock market crash in the United States and lasted a total of 10 years. The acute phase of the crisis lasted for three years - from 1929 to 1932, the beginning of 1933.
In early April, the headlines of the world media were full ofreports that the world is facing a second “Great Depression”. According to economists, the largest economies in the world are already facing a recession, and the continuation of quarantine measures only exacerbates the situation. When the incidence of coronavirus declines, many will need psychiatric help. It is important to understand that the reason lies not only in the immediate consequences of CoVID-19, but also in the social and economic consequences, which are expected over the next year or two, will lead to a deterioration in the mental health of the population.
According to ABC News, in March the National ServiceAustralia's crisis support Lifeline answered almost 90,000 calls, up 25% from the same period last year. Moreover, half of the country's psychological associations reported an increase in demand for their services, which, in general, was in line with the global trend.
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According to Scientific American, Emily Owen,The 19-year-old Briton is probably the youngest suicide victim of this pandemic. She did not have a diagnosis or symptoms of CoVID-19. Rather, the announcement of quarantine and impending isolation stunned her.
The connection between isolation and suffering is beautifulillustrated in the masterpiece of Albert Camus "Plague". Camus's fictional story about the outbreak of the bubonic plague in the city of Oran now has a terrible resemblance to reality: the gates of the city were closed, quarantine was imposed, and the townspeople were isolated from each other. He aptly compares the plight of residents with imprisonment: "they were sentenced for an unknown crime to an indefinite sentence." Uncertainty about how long these measures will last led Orantsev, like us, to a feeling of helplessness in planning the future.
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Elderly people are at particular risk. After the outbreak of SARS in 2003, there was a surge in suicides among older people, which may be a harbinger of future events. Older people are sensitive to loneliness and isolation, they need strong social support, especially in difficult times. The reduction of contacts and self-isolation violates normal social life, and a sense of personal worthlessness arises.
In just one day, two medical workers -Daniela Trezzi, a 34-year-old nurse from Italy and a British nurse at the age of 20, committed suicide. Both were deeply traumatized by the horrors experienced at the forefront of the war against the virus. The world looks at paramedics, nurses and doctors as a pillar, but fatigue from compassion - emotional burnout from caring for patients with a gloomy prognosis - prevails among medical professionals. At present, doctors are called upon to make difficult ethical decisions about the allocation of resources, and in the absence of mechanical ventilation devices, they have to choose between whom of the patients are given a chance and who are not. From an article by my colleague Artem Sutyagin, you can find out why 88% of patients on mechanical ventilation in the United States die.
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Even when the epidemic is taken under control andisolation measures will cancel, the economic crisis will cause an increase in unemployment and poverty. As the experience of the past shows, during the years of the Great Depression in the USA the level of suicides rose to a record 21.9 cases per 100,000 people in 1932. Thus, while attention is focused on the treatment of patients with CoVID-19, people at risk are unnoticed.
What can be done?
Experts are convinced of the need for programs inmental health focused on educating the public and health workers on how best to deal with tremendous pressure and anxiety. This can help minimize psychosocial losses in times of crisis. Moreover, now programs are needed to help deal with the consequences of the pandemic. Today we must take care of each other more than ever.