The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on us all. Our work and social lives, as well as our quality of life have all been affected. What’s more, the lockdowns caused us to isolate ourselves. Some people got to spend more time with their loved ones and families due to being in the same bubble. However, many people who live alone felt utterly isolated.
We went from having ultimate freedom to being restricted to our homes for weeks on end. Beyond that, many people lost their jobs which meant they lost their incomes too. In addition, many relationships also came to an end. What’s more, losing their jobs caused many people to feel as if they had completely lost their purpose. Without a purpose we are bound to feel hopeless.
Thanks to lockdowns, people were essentially left with more time on their hands, whether they were still in a job or not. This ultimately meant more time to think and as a result, more time to worry. For many others it felt as if their quality of life was at a questionable point as they couldn’t do much more than spend time with themselves.
In addition, many people experienced enhanced anxiety and stress about potentially catching the virus.
It’s no surprise then that suicide rates increased during lockdowns.
One reason many have died by suicide during the COVID-19 pandemic was due to the halt in their therapy services, which is actually crucial for people suffering from certain mental disorders like depression and anxiety. Without the necessary mental health support these individuals may quickly spiral into a suicidal mindset. Once there, it is difficult to get out of since often only medical intervention can help to stabilise someone who is suicidal.
There are many different reasons why COVID lockdowns have caused a spike in suicide rates which increased across nearly every country.
Japan is one of the countries which has seen an enormous spike in suicide rates during the COVID pandemic. Suicide rates in Japan have risen for the first time in 11 years. The last time suicide rates were concerning in Japan was during the 2009 financial crisis.
In 2020, suicide rates in Japan increased by 4.5% from the previous year. 912 additional individuals died by suicide in Japan in 2020 compared to the previous year. The number of men who died by suicide decreased; however, more women died by suicide in Japan during the COVID pandemic.
In 2020, 7,026 women died by suicide in Japan, an increase of 15% or 935 from the previous year. The age group most affected was those in their 40s; however, those in their 20s also increased. The younger generation (those under the age of 20) also saw an increase of 311 suicides. Shockingly, 837 individuals in their 20s died by suicide in Japan in 2020 also.
There was also a suicide rise by 34% among those who were employed , equating to 1,534 suicides. The number of housewives who died by suicide also increased to 1,168 or 14%. Students and pupils too died by suicide in Japan during the COVID pandemic. The number of student suicides increased to 387 or 44%.
Suicides were also prevalent among young school children, with a 35% increase from the previous year. The number of suicides that occurred in Japan during 2020 have been the highest since they started collecting statistics on this in 1978.
Malawi, a landlocked country in Southeastern Africa saw a 57% increase in suicide rates in 2020 compared to the year prior. The rise in suicides in Malawi has been largely attributed to the economic stresses that accompanied the COVID pandemic in addition to social factors.
Malawi is one of the poorest countries on the planet. 20% of individuals living there are poverty-stricken. Thus, the impact COVID has had on businesses, employees, schools, and the hospitality industry has made it very difficult for people to cope with everyday stress.
Another country that saw a significant spike in suicide rates is Bangladesh. According to a new study, suicide took 70% more lives than COVID since March 2020. 14,436 individuals died by suicide between March 2020 and February 2021 whereas 8,462 individuals died from COVID during this period.
Suicides rates drastically increased by 45% from that of the previous year. Suicide rates in Bangladesh average at around 10,000 people per year. The issue is particularly prevalent among students who experienced suicidal thoughts, depression, and growing frustration.
Similar to Malawi, there is a lack of mental health services and support to help individuals who are having a tough time mentally. This is especially true among the younger generations. The study claimed that more than half (57%) of the people affected were women and that 49% of the individuals were between 20 and 35 years old.
The Need to Prioritise Mental Wellbeing
The high suicide rates has shown us exactly why we need to prioritise our mental wellbeing. In the case of working from home, that could mean supporting your employees with mental health support programmes or giving them mental health days off.
If you are struggling as a result of fear of catching COVID-19 or you are experiencing great sadness or anxiety due to the pandemic’s impact, it is crucial to have some tools at hand. For example, when you feel overwhelmed, it’s important to turn off the news and give yourself some time away. Self-care can be very beneficial and is often the one thing mental health patients neglect when they are feeling mentally unwell. Eating a balanced diet, sticking to a daily routine, getting fresh air and daily exercise and getting adequate sleep are all things that help us to feel more balanced and stable.
It is also crucial to ensure you are reaching out to family and friends if you are feeling alone. Likewise, whether we know of the struggles or not, we should reach out as a means to support one another in our lives.
Another crucial thing that could make a huge difference is to ensure that essential mental health services continue even if it means getting the support by telephone or Zoom. It is not normal for humans to be so isolated. We are, by nature, very social creatures. Not only do we need continuous mental health support during this time, but we also need to be provided with tools to help us cope during these challenging times.
If you or a loved one are feeling suicidal, it is essential to get help. Suicidal thoughts should never be taken lightly.