Report: Stay home orders and shutdown could cause 75K deaths due to suicide, alcohol and drugs

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MIAMI, FL – A study published by the Well Being Trust and the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care earlier in the month of May details some serious concerns about the potential ill-effects of the pandemic – but these particular concerns aren’t due to someone catching the virus.

This study projected that 75,000 additional deaths of despair could occur as a result of the various state shutdowns, due to drug & alcohol misuse and suicide.

According to the report published:

“Alongside the thousands of deaths from COVID-19, the growing epidemic of “deaths of despair” is increasing due to the pandemic—as many as 75,000 more people will die from drug or alcohol misuse and suicide”

The study used the data from 2018 as a model to create a “baseline” of what the standard “deaths of despair” would be, which was 181,686 in total that year.

In a series of nine hypothetical scenarios of how the country would open back up in particular rates of speed and fashion, the ranges of predicted “deaths of despair” went from as low as 27,644 with a quick economic recovery and as high as 154,037 deaths with a slow reopening and greater impact to unemployment.

With all things considered, the study settled that an increase of 75,000 deaths in the category of “deaths of despair” would be the most likely of scenarios to come to fruition.

Benjamin Miller, the chief strategy officer for the Well Being Trust and co-author of the study, explained what defines a “death of despair” and how the pandemic response may increase the modes of death:

“Deaths of despair are tied to multiple factors, like unemployment, fear and dread, and isolation. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were already an unprecedented number of deaths of despair. We wanted to estimate how this pandemic would change that number moving forward.”

There’s more to this volatile cocktail of uncertainty than just worries over aspects that can spawn or increase depression. There’s the possibility that those who’d never once had a substance abuse problem may have generated one since everyone was told to “stay home,” as Miller explained:

“The isolation is causing people to lose boundaries on their behaviors.”

Boundaries on behavior are what many would coin as “social norms.” They could be that of the social drinker who traditionally waited until happy hour at their local tavern on a Friday before throwing one down the hatch, to having their libations from noon on every day.

If something like the aforementioned were to become habit during the lockdown period for someone, it would become a difficult habit to break and could lead to dire consequences.

Overall, Miller is worried that the hyper-focused attention that the virus is attaining is obfuscating the big picture of other forms of fatalities:

“Undeniably policymakers must place a large focus on mitigating the effects of COVID. However, if the country continues to ignore the collateral damage—specifically our nation’s mental health—we will not come out of this stronger.”

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The topic around mental health ramifications of pandemic-related lockdowns has been a conversation making the rounds since various lockdowns were implemented in response to COVID-19.

Now, doctors from the John Muir Medical Center are saying they’re seeing more suicides than COVID deaths lately.

Dr. Mike deBoisblanc noted that he believes it is time to end the shelter-in-place order, as he states that the curve has been flattened and other side effects of the lockdown are beginning to flesh out:

“I think, originally, this (the shelter-in-place order) was put in place to flatten the curve and to make sure hospitals have the resources to take care of COVID patients. We have the current resources to do that and our other community health is suffering.”

What has Dr. deBoisblanc most concerned is the enormous spike in both suicides and attempted suicides:

“We’ve never seen numbers like this, in such a short period of time. I mean we’ve seen a year’s worth of suicide attempts in the last four weeks.”

Trauma nurse Kacey Hansen also expressed shock in the number of increased cases of self-harm coming into the hospital:

“What I have seen recently, I have never seen before. I have never seen so much intentional injury.”

Hansen is rightfully perturbed at the ongoing spike she’s seeing with patients admitted for acts of self-harm:

“Sometimes, people will make what we call a ‘gesture.’ It’s a cry for help. We’re just seeing something a little different than that right now. It’s upsetting.”

Executive Director of the Contra Costa County Crisis Center, Tom Tamura, hopes that those experiencing depression and thoughts of self-harm during the lockdown reach out to their dedicated hotline to connect them with someone to talk to:

“I think people have found themselves disconnected from the normal supportive networks that they have, churches and schools and book clubs, you name it.”

Tamura noted that most people presumed that the lockdown period was going to be much shorter than what it has manifested into:

“They were trying to weather the storm a bit but as that isolation has grown people have come to realize this isn’t a sprint it is marathon.”

National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins had mentioned concerns over suicide linked to the likes of social distancing and lockdowns back in April during an interview with Stat News:

“Particularly with suicide, one worries about the people who already are struggling with depression, and then are put in a circumstance of being isolated from others.”

Collins further added onto that notion:

“So that’s one more reason why we need to figure out in a safe way, and an evidence-based way how we can get ourselves back out there again, because people are suffering with this.”

Even President Donald Trump noted that there could be issues related to the lockdowns and freezing of the economy that lead to suicide:

“People get tremendous anxiety and depression and you have suicide over things like this when you have a terrible economy. You have death, definitely … in far greater numbers than we’re talking about with regard to the virus.”

letter that was recently addressed to the White House that was signed by hundreds of doctors, they to stated that these quarantines measures have unduly harmed many American citizens:

“Growing evidence indicates that the unprecedented policy of forcing healthy Americans to quarantine was not necessary to save lives but instead inflicted devastating harm on 10s of millions of people.”

Luckily, all states within the country have begun measures to start reopening. With the likes of such taking place, hopefully instances of self-harm will begin to drop in not only Walnut Creek, California, but also wherever else there may be a drastic increase in said incidents.


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