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Covid19 and Suicide - Looking after Yourself and Others

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

Yesterday was National Suicide Prevent Day.

It’s a sad but true fact that there has been a steady rise in deaths by suicide over the past two decades and a new report by The Well Being Trust released last month found that 75,000 additional people could die from what they called “deaths of despair,” (which include suicide and substance use) because of Covid-19.

Isolation, lack of contact with family and friends, and loneliness can all add to a feeling of despair, without the added anxiety caused by the current social climate. Throw in money worries, anxiety about health, worry about friends and family, and you have a recipe for disaster. Many struggling with change who are dependent on their routine now find themselves in unfamiliar territory.

It understandable that some find themselves feeing there is no hope.

There is lots of information to hand about the physical symptoms of Covid but very little in the way of the impact on our mental wellbeing. Alarm bells are starting to ring though. We should be worried - There’s evidence that deaths by suicide increased both after the 1918 flu pandemic and the 2003 SARS outbreak. We’re seeing spikes from front line workers already, with cases of stress on the rise.

Its no secret that isolation and loneliness is bad for our health – both physical and mental. According to a meta-analysis co-authored by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, lack of social connection heightens health risks as much as smoking three-quarters of a pack of cigarettes a day…every day. Pretty unbelievable, right?!

This is why it is so important to look after ourselves and each other, and have the courage to ask for help when things become hard. No one has to cope alone. In a world where we are more connected than ever, there is always someone there who will talk, or just listen – but will be there for you when you need someone.

The difficulties we are facing with the outbreak will pass, but while we are still riding this wave, its crucial to find strategies that work for you when dealing with the challenging feelings that arise. More so for those with existing mental health problems.

Step 1 – Think about your daily routine.

Routine is the foundation of calm, and many of us take solace in knowing what our day ahead brings. The pandemic has changed the way our daily life looks, but that doesn’t mean we can’t re-establish a routine – it will just look slightly different.

Put some thought into creating a new, positive, routine. Try to include meaningful activities (reading a book, doing a puzzle, a jigsaw, crafts) and make sure you plan to get in touch with family and/or friends. Try to vary how you communicate – use zoom for face-to-face connections, call someone, and text.

Try to write out your plan for the week.

It may help you to practice mindfulness. Start a diary so you can track your mood – it will help identify patterns which will help you introduce coping mechanisms. Try mindful breathing at times when you feel anxious.

Setting yourself goals will give you something to work towards, something to achieve, which will have a positive impact on your outlook.

Step 2 – Look after your physical health

A healthy body will support a healthy mind and your physical health will impact on your mood in a big way, emotionally and mentally. During times like these, it’s so easy to fall into bad habits, but those kind of habits will only affect you negatively in the long run.

Eat a balanced diet, take care when preparing your emails and stay hydrated throughout the day. Here are some healthy meals you can cook at home .A little exercise every day will help get those happy chemicals flowing and will keep you in good shape – exercise outdoors if you can, but if not, indoors is fine. Yoga can be extremely beneficial, both physically and mentally. There are loads of exercise video’s on YouTube to inspire you, or a walk outside will do you the world of good. Here are some easy 10-minute workouts from Public Health England you could try.

Don’t turn to drink every night – tempting as it is. Low mood, boredom, anxiety can all make the bottle look tempting, but healthy choices will pay off in the long run. If you have concerns about the amount you are drinking, One You has resources to help with cutting back on alcohol.

Step 3 – Look out for each other

You aren’t in this alone – we’re all going those the same challenging times and we are all in unfamiliar territory, so take solace that you are not struggling alone. Talk to others – you may be surprised how many of your family, friends, colleagues and peers are feeling the same feelings that you are.

Think about how you can help those around you who may not be coping so well. Listen to others’ feelings, worries and concerns – they could be reaching out in the only way they know.

Look for Facebook community groups where you can join and talk to others from your local area. It will help you by introducing a social element to your day but could help others knowing you are there and going through the same whirlwind of emotions. You can always talk to those passing by your home too – as long as you remember to social distance.

Step 4 – Do things you enjoy

Try to look at this as an opportunity. We have been given the gift of time. Those that are furloughed, yes, money can cause a worry, but the flip side is that you have time at home with your loved ones or have extra time for you!

Focus on a hobby, or activity you’ve always wanted to try but maybe haven’t had time. Its important to occupy yourself by doing things you enjoy when you are feeling low. If you can’t do the things you used to enjoy, think about how you could adapt those things to make them possible. Keeping your mind active will help prevent you dipping into those low moods which can be so hard to come out of.

Step 5 – Talk

Remember, these are difficult time for everyone, but a problem shared is a problem halved, and talking to someone will help. If you don’t have the strength to speak to family or friends, you can call NHS recommended helplines who are there to help, or, if you feel desperately low, please call the Samaritans on 116 123 – they will not judge, and will listen to you with an open heart.

The British Red Cross are currently offering a free online course to help you manage your mental health during these uncertain times. It’s a 30 minutes course, available to all and will help you identify areas of challenge and develop coping methods that work for you. You can access the training here.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and look after each other.

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