Covid-19 pandemic increasing risk factors for suicide: WHO
There is a growing concern about the effects of coronavirus pandemic on mental health. Experts have even expressed fear that mental health problems will be the next pandemic after the Covid-19 crisis. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has also cautioned that the Covid-19 pandemic has increased risk factors for suicide worldwide, stating that focus on suicide prevention is even more important now. In a statement issued on Thursday, the world body revealed that more than 700,000 people died of suicide in 2019, the year prior to the global pandemic. This means one in 100 deaths globally can directly be attributed to suicide, which is more than HIV, malaria, wars or homicide.
After living with the Covid-19 pandemic for many months, we are now seeing widespread prevalence of many of the risk factors for suicide, such as job loss, financial stress and social isolation, loneliness, poverty and loss of in- dependence. Acknowledging this fact, the WHO has announced a series of guidance, under the name ‘LIVE LIFE’, to improve suicide prevention. Emphasizing how media can play a role in reducing suicide cases, the WHO noted that the reports of suicide that described the methods used or focused on celebrities could increase risks of “copycat suicides”.
“We cannot and must not ignore suicide. Each one is a tragedy,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was quoted as saying in the statement.
Global suicide rate was decreasing before the pandemic
According to WHO, the global suicide rate was decreasing everywhere prior to the global pandemic, except the Americas region that saw increases of 17 per cent. In 2019, the average global suicide rate was 9.0 per 100 000. The WHO African, European and South-East Asia regions reported suicide rates higher than the global average at 11.2 per 100 000; 10.5 per 100 000 and 10.2 per 100 000.
The lowest suicide rate was reported in the Eastern Mediterranean region (6.4 per 100 000), as revealed by the WHO.
The suicide rates were higher among men, as WHO said more than twice as many males die due to suicide as females. Suicide rates among men were higher in high-income countries, while more women kill themselves in lower-middle-income countries. Suicide was the fourth leading cause of death among young people aged 15-29, after road injury, tuberculosis and interpersonal violence, according to the UN health agency.
Loneliness and depressive symptoms on the rise
Several studies have indicated the risk for increases in loneliness and mental health problems during the COVID-19 pandemic. A study issued by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) in April 2021 warned that mental health problems caused by the global Covid-19 crisis will be the next pandemic.
A study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Psychoactive Drugs in November 2020 reported an “alarming” increase in loneliness among young adults aged 18–35 since the arrival of COVID-19. Roughly 65% of the study participants reported increased feelings of loneliness and 80% of the participants also reported “significant depressive symptoms” during the pandemic. Depression is one of the most prevalent diagnoses among suicide victims, and depression and loneliness often go hand in hand.
According to a Harvard research, the degree of loneliness is highest among young adults aged 18 to 25. The data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that young people are experiencing substantial symptoms of anxiety and depression.
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