Colleton Medical Center - September 10, 2021
by Tiffany Norton-Cornette

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And we all know by now, that the pandemic is adding extra layers of stress, fear and anxiety.  Worrying about a new disease and what could happen can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. 

Vital public health actions, such as social distancing, can make people feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety. Feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety, and other emotional or financial stresses are known to raise the risk for suicide. People may be more likely to experience these feelings during the pandemic. 

There usually isn’t just one determining factor that prompts someone to take their own life. The circumstances that result in suicide are usually complex and may involve one or more life challenges. “During this pandemic people need to watch for warning signs with even more vigilance,” says Dr. Charles Shissias, Psychiatry Medical Director. How people respond to stress during the COVID-19 pandemic can depend on their background, social support from family or friends, their financial situation, health and emotional background, the community they live in, and many other factors. The changes that can happen because of COVID-19 and the ways we try to contain the spread of the virus are affecting us all at varying levels. 

Know the Facts:

Knowing the facts about COVID-19 and stopping the spread of rumors is one step you can take to reduce stress and anxiety.  Understanding the risk to yourself and people you care about can help you connect with others. Watch your intake of social media and make sure you’re using reliable, medical sources such as the CDC, and conversations with your health care provider to guide your decisions for you and your family on staying healthy.

During times of increased social distancing, people can still maintain social connections and care for their mental health. Here are some healthy ways to cope with stress

  • Talk to your doctor if you are sick and before you start any self-treatment for COVID-19.
  • Know where and how to get treatment and support services, including counseling or therapy (in person and telehealth services).
  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body.
    • Try and eat health, well-balanced meals
    • Exercise regularly
    • Get plenty of sleep
    • Avoid excessive alcohol and drug use
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations. While social distancing measures are in place, consider connecting online, through social media, or by phone or mail. 

As the social distancing actions are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Coping with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger. 

Don’t dismiss your concerns

Sometimes, the idea that someone would not only contemplate suicide, but also follow through with it, may be hard to accept, according to Dr. Shissias.  “We see many people who are coping with all of the change the pandemic is bringing, dismiss the feelings of those who aren’t.  We need to remember it’s different for everyone,” Dr. Shissias concludes. 

“If you believe that you or someone you know is at risk for suicide, trust your instincts. If you're concerned about someone, consider it an emergency,” Dr. Shissias advises. “When you take action, the worst case scenario is that people go to the ER and they're okay and referred for outpatient care,” he points out. “But the best case scenario is that you save a life.” 

Colleton Medical Center has people who can help 24/7.  Call 843-782-2000.  Or you can find help at the resources listed below. 

For crisis counseling and support related to COVID-19, call the Disaster Distress Helpline (1-800-985-5990) or text TalkWithUs to 66746. For those experiencing a suicidal crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), or text HOME to 741741 for the Crisis Text Line.