Predictions of more suicides, overdoses and domestic violence during COVID come true
Nine months later, those grim predictions seem to be coming true.
“There is a wave of mental health in this pandemic,” Dr. Ken Duckworth, chief medical officer of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, told ABC News. “As a species, we don’t do well with uncertainty.”
In addition, stay-at-home orders and school closures – important measures to prevent the spread of the virus – have had downstream consequences such as social isolation, erosion of support networks and a burden. additional financial.
All of these factors contribute to more suicides, overdoses and violence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And specialists warn that this mental health pandemic within the virus pandemic will also disproportionately affect blacks, Hispanics, the elderly, people of lower socioeconomic status of all races, and healthcare workers.
Many of these accelerating public health crises were already getting worse before COVID-19.
In 2018, the United States had the highest age-adjusted suicide rates since 1941. In June, a CDC survey out of 5,470 American adults, one-third reported symptoms of anxiety or depression. About 10% said they had considered suicide in the past month and that the rate of suicidal thoughts was highest among unpaid caregivers, essential workers, Hispanic or black respondents, and young adults.
People between the ages of 18 and 25 may be the hardest hit group, Duckworth explained.
“We need to look at the impact of age,” Duckworth added. “In the age of identity development, young adults are absent from college.”
The opioid epidemic, previously considered the greatest public health threat in the United States, has also worsened since the virus outbreak. After overdose deaths briefly stabilized in 2017 – stricter prescription drug regulations were passed – deaths started to climb again from illegal synthetic substitutes like fentanyl.
“We were making improvements in terms of treatment options for opioid dependence before the pandemic,” said Dr Harshal Kirane, medical director of Addiction Treatment and Research in Wellbridge, told ABC News. “However, there were still significant treatment gaps that have worsened now that we have a stacked pandemic.”
More than 40 states have reported an increase in opioid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to the American Medical Association.
Overdoses – both fatal and non-fatal – increased by 20% compared to the same period in 2019, according to the Overdose detection mapping application program.
“The incidence of new users is also on the rise,” added Kirane. “Isolation, economic pressure and family conflicts during quarantine are all factors.”
Reports of domestic violence are also on the rise, and many experts fear that reported cases are only a small fraction of those occurring. In New York City alone, “there has been a substantial increase in domestic violence hotline calls,” said Kelli Owens, executive director of the New York State Office for Domestic Violence Prevention .
“Calls to hotlines fell in the first weeks of the pandemic, increased by 30% in April and increased by 76% in August. They remained high until September,” she added.
The United Nations warns that the pandemic is likely to undermine efforts to end gender-based violence globally, while stay-at-home and social-distancing orders can effectively trap victims of violence with their abusers.
The CDC has recognized that violence is a serious public health problem. It affects people at all stages of life, and many survivors of violence suffer from long-term physical, mental and emotional health problems.
“It’s important to keep in mind that domestic violence is generally underreported,” Owen added.
Public health specialists and policymakers are taking action to try to address these alarming trends. For example, many states have relaxed restrictions on telehealth, making it easier to access a medical provider during a crisis. Some make it easier to prescribe drugs for opioid use disorder without a face-to-face visit.
Over the summer, the CDC released tips for people abuse and for those facing extreme stress during the pandemic. The CDC recommends making a plan if you live in an insecure home, practicing personal care as much as possible, and trying to maintain virtual social connections with people outside of your immediate home.
Solutions at the community level should prioritize young adults, racial and ethnic minorities, essential workers and adult caregivers, according to the CDC, who said such efforts should include economic support, efforts to reduce the stress of racial discrimination, promotion of community social bonds and care for those at risk of suicide.
“This pandemic is not going anywhere,” Duckworth said. “My advice is this: lower your expectations, stay in touch with people, seek professional help when needed, don’t skip your flu shot and stay physically active.
Yalda Safai, MD, MPH, New York Psychiatry Resident, is a contributor to the ABC News Medical Unit.