Mental health study suggests pandemic could increase statewide suicide rate 32%

May 5, 2020

Pine Rest Christian Mental Services
Credit Pine Rest Christian Mental Services

Mental health experts are preparing for the effects stay home orders will have on state suicide rates. In a Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services report, the predictors for suicide are increasing statewide as either a direct or indirect impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“There are no longer any easy sessions. The problems and difficulties and stresses that our patients are experiencing is increasing. It’s magnified by this.”

Dr. Evonne Edwards is clinical director for Outpatient and Recovery Services. She’s one of seven authors producing the research paper titled Preparing Michigan for the Behavioral Health Impact of COVID-19.

It analyses previous epidemics, including the 2003 SARS outbreak in Asia, as indicators for what to expect now.

“They had a 31% rise in suicide rates and that was with only an 8% rise in unemployment rates. That makes me very concerned about Michigan where we’ve seen a larger than 8% rise in unemployment rates already.’

Based on the SARS study, Michigan’s suicide rate could rise to 32%. Dr. Edwards says at the moment, it’s closer to 26%.

With more people experiencing joblessness and social isolation there’s an increase in depression, anxiety and substance abuse Edwards says we all need to act.

“We can reach out to our family, our friends, our neighbors, our students our teachers checking in with other people asking how they’re doing?”

The report recommends additional access to care that includes greater access to teletherapy and telepsychiatry.

I’m Patrick Center.