We may be on the verge of a mental health crisis

It is a common phenomenon to see deaths of despair rise during a recession. This is because unemployment and loss of income can be damaging to people’s mental health. This may lead to a spike in depression, alcohol and substance abuse, as well as a rise in the number of suicides.

Deaths of despair are defined as deaths to drug, alcohol, and suicide, and often associated with socioeconomic factors. Unemployment during the Great Recession (December 2007–June 2009) was associated with an increase in suicide deaths and drug overdose deaths

I have written before that currently, we are at risk of facing similar trends as those of past financial recessions. However, there are more factors at play here than job loss. People are experiencing unprecedented levels of isolation. Uncertainty has not only affected the economy but also social life.

It is therefore not surprising that with all these factors combined, states are seeing a rise in the mental health care patients or suicide attempt calls. According to Dr. Mike deBoisBlanc, Head of Trauma at John Muir Medical center, his hospital has seen a year’s worth of suicide attempts in a space of one week.

This is a national trend. There has been a significant jump in people reporting mental stress during the lockdown period.

About 20,000 people texted the hotline last month, compared with 1,790 texts in April 2019, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration confirmed to The Health 202. The hotline provides crisis counseling to people experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster.

This is more than a 1000% increase in cases. This just goes to show how significant isolation is taking a toll on people’s mental well-being. These numbers should be expected to go up in as long as lockdown measures continue. Because isolation measures were put in place to flatten the curve, there is no logical reason for them to persist this long, considering most states have managed to acquire the resources to handle an increase in coronavirus cases.