As lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic continue indefinitely in nearly all states, many experts are bracing for another kind of health crisis?—a mental health crisis. While most people’s focus is squarely on the risks and mortality of the coronavirus and others prioritize the revitalization of the economy, there seems to be a lack of consciousness about the mental health ramifications of worldwide lockdown.
According to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, almost half of all Americans report that lockdown efforts are harming their mental health. There has been a 1,000 percent increase in calls to the emergency hotline ran by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It is notable to say that the lack of access to in-person therapy sessions and treatments that so many relied on prior to the pandemic is exacerbating this problem.
This is perhaps unsurprising to some who remember the increase in national suicides at the start of the 2008 recession. Male suicides following the financial crash jumped by 9 percent. A glance back at the Great Depression shows that 40,000 men took their own lives in one year during the disaster. There is a strong historical link to economic devastation and suicide, self-harm, and depression. When people, particularly men, lose hope and the ability to provide for themselves and their families, some are pushed to the limit.
Many teachers are bracing for a wave of traumatized children when schools are allowed to resume as normal. Programs are being set up to train school staff on how to respond and care for children who have newly-found mental health problems.
One social worker in Queens recently spoke to NY Daily News and said, “We’ve had quite a few students who are losing grandparents, students who are caring for parents and grandparents. Engaging students back in school is going to be very challenging ... We have just experienced a sort of collective trauma.”
It is imperative that just as the country has taken preemptive measures to avoid overwhelming the hospital system, we must also prepare ourselves for the massive onslaught of mental health patients and issues that are sure to come in a wave that likely resembles the wave of COVID-19 cases. The fallout could last for years.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal ideations, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.