With the covid-19 pandemic now affecting virtually every country on earth, it is understandable that much of the world’s focus has been on protecting people’s physical health. Hand washing and social distancing is important in the fight against the coronavirus. However, it is important to remember that mental health issues may lead to loss of life as well. And as people’s anxiety, grief, frustration, and anger continue to rise as the pandemic continues, mental health services such as phone counseling and crisis hotlines may become very important in helping individuals who may be contemplating self harm or suicide.
The Dangers of Suicide
Suicide is a major global health concern. According to the World Health Organization, 800,000 people die from suicide each year. In 2017, approximately 47,000 American citizens committed suicide. That figure is twice the number of people who were victims of homicide (19,500) in the same year.
If you think that you or someone you know may be at risk for suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 immediately.
Evaluating the Risk
Suicidal ideation (thinking about or planning suicide) has been linked with a number of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and hopelessness. It is also associated with declining physical health as well as sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. While it is true that not everyone experiencing these conditions thinks about suicide, all suicidal thoughts and behaviors should be taken seriously.
How can you tell if someone you know is at risk for suicide? He or she may:
- Threaten to hurt or kill himself or herself
- Write or talk about his or her own death
- Feel trapped in an unpleasant situation with no way out
- Avoid family members and friends
- Feel like there is no hope
- Take unnecessary risks
- Have access to weapons, medications, or toxic chemical substances
Does Phone Counseling Really Work?
One of the challenges affecting people with mental health issues today is their inability to meet with their therapist face-to-face. The highly contagious nature of covid-19 has led to businesses, communities and even entire countries being placed on lockdown. Despite these restrictions, a large percentage of individuals are able to access mental health care over the phone. Therapy provided in this way may help save the lives of thousands of people who may be experiencing extreme emotional distress and considering suicide.
Some people may be unsure if over the phone therapy is effective. However, a 2016 literature review of fourteen studies published in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare showed that phone counseling shows “promise in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.” In fact, respondents in a 2002 study claimed the mental health benefits of phone counseling were similar to those experienced in face-to-face therapy. Click here to learn how you can get phone counseling when and where you need it.
It is estimated that for each person who dies from suicide, another 20 adults attempt to take their own life. It is essential that at-risk individuals are able to access professional mental health care over the phone. Therapy can help people with suicidal ideation to explore ways to resist the urge to self-harm and develop healthy coping strategies to manage feelings of distress or hopelessness. Once the crisis hotline has helped suicidal individuals passed the point of crisis, hospitalization or intense in-patient care may be necessary.