Page 41 - BusinessWest October 13, 2021
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Danger Zone
Suicide Prevention Takes on New Urgency During Pandemic
BAy Mark Morris
ccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the national suicide rate declined slightly in 2019, the last year for which full statistics are available.
Unfortunately, the latest government data does not take into account the arrival of COVID- 19 early in 2020. But area mental-health profes- sionals know what they’re seeing and hearing almost 20 months into the pandemic.
Amanda Hichborn, director of Outpatient
“Vulnerable groups like disenfranchised people were already struggling with basic needs. Throw the pandemic on top of it, and their needs are impacted tenfold.”
Clinical Services for River Valley Counseling Cen- ter’s Westfield office, said the impact of COVID has in some ways been a double-edged sword when it comes to suicide risk.
“The risk factors for suicide have definitely increased,” she said. “At the same time, we’ve also seen protective factors that have come into play.” On top of fears about our health, Hichborn
explained, the pandemic also affected basic needs such as food — as evidenced by shortages in grocery stores — as well as the ability to sleep well, employment security, and freedom to move around wherever and whenever we want.
At the same time, she has seen people spend more time with their family, increase their fitness
MHA’s Alane Burgess (left) and Kristy Navarro say social isolation during the pandemic
has been problematic for young people.
by taking walks to get outside, and improve their diets by eating more at home.
“These protective factors work to actually decrease the risk of suicide,” Hichborn said. “When we go through something as a commu- nity, we feel a kind of connectedness, which also helps decrease suicide risk.”
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