California Town Reports More Suicide Attempts in Past Month Than Previous Year Combined

The national lockdown has taken a heartbreaking toll on mental health

California Town Reports More Suicide Attempts in Past Month Than Previous Year Combined
Smith Collection/Gado/Contributor
By Tanner Garrity / May 23, 2020 6:05 am

The town of Walnut Creek, California, located less than an hour outside San Francisco in East Bay, is now reporting a huge increased in deaths from suicide during than lockdown than from COVID-19. The trauma center at John Muir Medical Center responded to a “year’s worth of suicide attempts” in just the last four weeks, and doctors have begun to question the safety of a continued quarantine.

“Personally I think it’s time,” said Dr. Mike deBoisblanc said to ABC7 News. “I think, originally, this (the shelter-in-place order) was put in place to flatten the curve and to make sure hospitals have the resources to take care of COVID patients.We have the current resources to do that and our other community health is suffering.”

Dr. deBoisblanc’s worries echo concerns voiced by the nation’s top mental health official, Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, who said yesterday that a prolonged (or even second) national lockdown could increase the number of suicides across the country, alongside drug overdoses and incidents of domestic abuse. But other professionals in Dr. McCance-Katz’s field, like Dr. Craig Sawchuk, a psychologist and division chair of integrated behavioral health at the Mayo Clinic, cautions that the fight against coronavirus is ongoing, and a loosened lockdown would spread the disease further — causing even more harm.

Beyond dispute, though, is the fact that people are hurting. Between trauma from losing loved ones, widespread unemployment, everyday exhaustion, disrupted sleeping patterns and a seemingly never-ending cycle of terrible news, it’s unsurprising that calls to national national mental health hotline are up 1,000% compared to the same period last year. Making matters worse, many are struggling without the usual support network of friends and family close by, or might even be tormented by those they should be able to trust — violence in homes has become more frequent since the quarantine began.

In Walnut Creek, the shelter-at-home order is set to expire May 31st. Trauma nurses at John Muir candidly expect to be able to save more lives once the lockdown ends. But if you know someone is suffering, don’t wait until local or governmental officials revise quarantine regulations; the issue is serious enough that you should pay a safe, socially distanced visit, if possible. If you live too far away, a phone call can make a massive difference, too.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, meanwhile, call the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are suffering from domestic abuse, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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