Suicide has been an issue of public health concern before the COVID-19 pandemic. Some reports suggest an increase in suicide during the peak of the spread of the infection in some developed countries. This spike appears to be more among those who have lost loved ones or resources. There have also been reports of suicide among frontline health workers who have experienced intense despair and helplessness.
We still have a fraction of the population of most countries who doubt the existence of a virus or the fact that the infection might be deadly. Others acknowledge that the virus can be deadly for some people, however, they see themselves as being untouchable or immune to the virus or its “deadliness”. Several video clips went viral in which some persons in Nigeria were seen washing their hands and drinking the wastewater to register their defiance of the hand-washing guidelines. While there is a possibility that these persons are simply manifesting “the opposite of wisdom”; what if they simply have suicidal tendencies?
With the annual rate of suicide worldwide always hovering around 1 million people, we know that 20 times this number would have attempted to kill themselves. We also know that the number of persons who are motivated enough to attempt suicide is a fraction of those who have suicidal thoughts. It is apt to assume that there are a lot of people who might have underlying suicidal tendencies before the onset of this pandemic.
The psychosocial and economic encumbrances imposed upon everyone by this pandemic have the potential of worsening preexisting suicidal tendencies or triggering off a fresh wave of suicidality if care is not taken.
The psychosocial and economic encumbrances imposed upon everyone by this pandemic has the potential of worsening preexisting suicidal tendencies or triggering off a fresh wave of suicidality if care is not taken.
Hopelessness remains a prominent emotional facilitator of the wish to die when suicide is explored. Individuals who have not much access to resources for a living might not see a need to comply with “our” guidelines since death for them might be liberating rather than terminating. Our approach in the control of this pandemic must, therefore, focus on attending to the basic needs of everyone and enhancing the hope to stay alive!!
This is the time to emphasize “not leaving anyone behind”.
Our strategies for fighting this pandemic must be guided by the principles of global mental health promotion and suicide prevention. There is a major component of this pandemic spread that is dependent on human behavior and not just the virulent nature of the virus itself. We need to ensure that the people are mentally and emotionally fit to be able to adopt behavioral changes we are trying to communicate to them.
Our strategy must start now and must continue even when this pandemic is brought under control.
To be continued……