The next pandemic: Suicide during COVID-19 crisis

News broke that German Finance Minister Thomas Schaefer reportedly committed suicide on Saturday due to the stress from the economic climate during the coronavirus crisis. Unfortunately, this headline may become more common place. Concerns are far beyond those of just hand washing, finding toilet paper and the latest White House briefings. There may be a secondary crisis growing — mental health and suicide.

Messages fill my inbox daily from parents worried about their teens showing signs of risk of suicidal ideation. Spouses concerned about the toil recent layoffs will have on their partners. Elderly family members are also vulnerable.

Last week, news a father of three dying by suicide made me want to scream to the world – "LISTEN!" We are losing too many of our human family. And I am afraid with COVID-19 on the scene, we are going to lose more than ever.

During the past six years — following the suicide of my 40-year-old sister — my mission has been to bring awareness and help prevent suicide. Everyone is exposed to suicide. You either struggle with depression/anxiety, you love someone that struggles, or like me, you have already lost someone to suicide. That is literally everyone on the planet. Bigger numbers than even the virus.

Little known fact. Springtime is a peak season for suicides. Even compared to the holidays.

Little known fact. Springtime is a peak season for suicides. Even compared to the holidays.So, pile on the constant stream of news, stats about COVID-19 deaths and a lock down on social distancing, even the most emotionally skilled individual may be drowning in vulnerability and at risk.

What can be done?

Social distancing, not isolationEven though we are standing 6ft apart in the grocery stores, and no longer going to church together, humans need connection to survive.

Free communication apps like Marco Polo are a great way to not hide behind a text. Whether it is on video chat or old fashion letter writing, making connection a priority is crucial for our survival.

Emotional check-inThe new normal seems to be changing by the hour. It is hard to keep up, recalibrating with all the change. Just like the importance of taking temperature to check for virus symptoms, we need to monitor our emotional temp. Try the one word check-in, at dinner time, simply by asking, "How am I feeling today?" It can be a great barometer.

Naming our feelings keep them tamed.

It's Ok to not be OkIt is crucial to our survival to frame this crisis with a mental health back drop. Suicide, depression and anxiety concerns should be at the top of the STAY HOME and STAY SAFE list. If you find yourself feeling helpless or having thoughts of self-harm, please reach out for additional support. Therapists are using online formats to serve their clients. Call your doctor or one of the many 1-800 numbers.

No one is an extra, disposable member of our human family.If you are reading this and struggling. Please remember, we will never be better without you. No one is an extra, disposable member of our human family. We will make it thru this COVID-19 crisis stronger and closer than before. No longer will we take hugging our neighbor for granted.

And maybe, just maybe we will someday find the vaccine that stops suicide virus from spreading.

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