Confinement, lack of employment and social interaction due to the pandemic exacerbate existing mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety as well as risk factors for suicide.
“The pandemic has caused an increase in risk factors such as anxiety due to isolation, fear and uncertainty of contagion and the future, chronic stress and excessive use of alcohol,” said Alfonso Martínez Taboas, clinical psychologist and past president of the Puerto Rico Psychology Association.
Violence, substance abuse, and feelings of loss are also important factors that can increase the risk of suicide.
It has been established that people who have had previous mental health problems are vulnerable to having depression. Depression, of all psychopathologies, is the one that is most related to a person attempting or committing suicide.
“Studies are indicating that depression is increasing considerably in all countries of the world, two or three times more than it was before,” explained Martínez Taboas.
According to the Pan American Health Organization, in the Americas, it is estimated that approximately 100,000 people kill themselves annually, according to the latest data available from 2016. Most suicides in the Region occur in people between 25 and 44 years old. (36%), and in those between 45 and 59 years old (26%).
As in the rest of the world, suicide rates in men are higher, accounting for around 78% of all deaths from suicide.
In high-income countries, men die by suicide three times more than women.
Signs of possible suicide
“People who are usually not feeling well and who subsequently try against their life show changes in three areas. The first is the mood of the person (depression, irritation, anger without cause and loss of interest); behaviors such as: increased use of alcohol to numb pain; withdraw from contact with other people and do dangerous or self-destructive things, “said the clinical psychologist.
Other signs are feeling empty, with no reason to live; feeling extremely sad, agitated, or angry; with excruciating pain, whether emotional or physical.
In few cases, people who are going to commit suicide give clues weeks before. “They can say that they are hopeless, they begin to talk about death, they say that they feel like a burden for other people and they do not see a way out of the problem they have. These are flags that can indicate that you have to be aware of that family member or friend ”.
Interventions to prevent suicide
According to mental health experts, family communication, early detection and treatment of depression and mental disorders are essential to help prevent suicide.
“At a time like this it is important to maintain relationships with family and friends. Maybe it can’t be in person but it can be done over the phone, with a call, a message or a video, ”said Martínez Taboas.
The psychologist indicated that being alone for many days is not good for mental health. “The idea of suicide can turn your head around a lot and it may take over parts of your attention. It is very important to teach people that if you feel bad, say so, talk about it, especially with people who appreciate you.
“When you talk about things, many times you feel such a relief that those ideas are there but less frequent. If you have a lot of suicidal thoughts, which are just thoughts and not attempts, seek help. Talk about it with family members or make an appointment with a health professional ”, explained the doctor.
“Do not be left alone with those thoughts hammering your head because those thoughts can become a plan and then an action. If the situation is financial problems, air it out and seek financial help. Right now there is a lot of government aid that has alleviated the despair and concern of many people, ”he said.
Each case is different. “The important thing is not to leave that person alone with those ideas, thoughts and concerns that can unbalance him and lead him to attempt against his life, something we do not want,” he concluded.
If the idea is very strong, it is advisable to go to a psychiatric hospital to receive the necessary assistance or to contact Emergencies: 911 ASSMCA PAS Line: 1-800-981-0023 Carr. # 2 Km 8.2 Bo. Juan Sánchez, Old Hospital Mepsi Center, Bayamón. Suicide Prevention Lifeline – National Network (TALK): 1-800-273-8255. Poison Control Center (Poison Help): 1-800-222-1222.