Emotional Wellbeing

Mental Health

Mandy Kloppers

How the Pandemic Increased Risks for Suicide and Substance Abuse

Throughout the pandemic, a lot of things happened. We made banana bread for four straight months. We invented dances. We engaged in discourse on the internet about everything from star signs to politics. Unfortunately, there was another item that happened. Rates of suicide and overdose rose dramatically.


The pandemic had and continues to have a massive impact on the mental health of all of us. Some experience it much harder than others, falling to substance abuse and suicidal thoughts because of their situations. Becoming familiar with the risks and prevention methods can help to keep this statistic from going up this much again.


What Caused an Increase in Overdoses and Suicide?

The pandemic brought about a lot of sudden issues that many were not prepared to deal with as fast as they appeared. From isolation to dangerous household situations, staying away from the damaging effects of COVD-19 brought about an entirely new set of problems.


The biggest factors that led to this increase took place in the home. The pandemic triggered many items that people across the board were unfamiliar with, leaving them unsure of how to cope in this new world.


Already Existing Disorders

Those who had already been diagnosed with disorders were suddenly faced with a changing world, alone in their homes with nothing but their thoughts to keep them company. Some of these disorders include:


  • Paranoia, which can emerge from a variety of factors
  • Grief, as the result of a death of a loved one
  • PTSD from a traumatic incident such as war or a crime
  • Anxiety or varying levels, from medicated to unmedicated


With the added element of a deadly virus, the pandemic was too much to handle for many. These existing disorders may have been a contributing factor to the increase in overdoses and suicide.


Issues with Money

As we all are aware, money already causes a lot of problems in the world we occupy without the added pandemic. When COVID-19 spread, businesses shut down. Jobs were lost. The ability to support a family evaporated into thin air for people who were resting in security just months before.


Guilt, fear of the future, and doubt can leave the mental state of an individual in shambles. The way that the pandemic operated left no room for anyone to prepare themselves. It was and continues to be an ever-changing economic world, leaving workers hanging in anticipation of the next disaster that could strike.


A Debilitating Feeling of Fear

A deadly disease is nothing to joke about, and everyone has probably experienced a healthy amount of pandemic fear at some point. However, many felt a fear that invaded the way that they operated daily.


To get rid of this fear, people often find themselves abusing substances to forget or get rid of the anxious sensation. If done too often, this can lead to suicidal thoughts or even an overdose on the drug that is being used.



Perhaps the biggest risk factor for these problems was isolation. For many, the pandemic left them alone in their houses or residencies without a companion to keep them company. Some didn’t even have technology to communicate with the outside world.


If your brain is isolated, you might experience:


  • Depression as a result from lacking an outlet
  • Poor sleep
  • Cognitive decline
  • Altered immunity


All these items are triggers for suicidal thoughts and overdose. Loneliness, and the lack of someone to turn to, was one of the biggest dangers during the pandemic apart from the disease itself.


Does Substance Abuse Affect Suicidal Thoughts?

It’s critical to note that substance abuse and issues with suicide often go together. Substance abuse from another individual can drive someone to consider suicidal actions. In other cases, substance abuse results from the desire to numb the sensations that come from suicidal thoughts.


Whatever the correlation, the pandemic made the issue worse for a lot of people. Thanks to isolation, there was and often still is not a way for many to turn to someone for help. Substance abuse and suicide in a circumstance of isolation tend to lead to poor outcomes that affect the lives of many, often in a permanent manner.


Are There Specific Types of People That Experience This?

The truth is anyone can suffer from suicidal thoughts or substance abuse at any given moment. However, there are certain groups of people that tend to be more susceptible than others to the mental health issues that resulted from the pandemic.


Some of the most vulnerable groups of people include:


  • Front line workers who are exposed to COVID and its damaging effects every single day
  • Young adults who are most likely alone, having moved out for the first time in their lives
  • The elderly, stuck inside nursing homes or locations all by themselves without quality success to technology
  • Those experiencing domestic violence who have nowhere to go and no one to turn to
  • Unpaid caregivers who need to stay isolated and fear for the safety of the individual that they are caring for


These people took the biggest hit during the pandemic. As we’ve discusses, it’s important to interact with these groups if a situation like this happens to prevent a preventable tragedy from occurring again. The first time around was difficult. If this happens again, we can be better prepared in our knowledge of who is the most vulnerable.

Are There Any Actions that Can be Take to Prevent These Issues?

Many things can be done to help those in need during a time of severe mental crises, whether you are assisting yourself or another individual that you have come to know.


Sometimes the solution is a simple hangout, while other times it may be serious enough to need a healthcare professional. Become familiar with these preventative measures to ensure that you can help yourself or another person if the aftershocks of the pandemic and beyond threaten their mental wellbeing and health.


Some of the best things that you can do for a person experiencing either of these issues is:


  • Provide them with a place to stay so that they do not have to be alone in their struggle
  • Call them every single day to remind them that you are there for them, despite what is going on
  • Point them to a rehab or addiction group that can provide peers post-pandemic


How Can This Knowledge Help Those Struggling?

There is so much that awareness can do for those that are struggling. The more knowledge is passed about this new pandemic-driven issue, the more help can be given to those who are in desperate need of it.


Simple telling other people about this tragedy and advice is a big step in the way we can change this issue. By putting this information out into the world:


  • Solutions can be spread for those in need of assistance
  • Preventative measures can be taken if we lock-down again
  • Awareness of the tragedy can spark change


The Increase of overdoses and suicide was and continues to be an avoidable tragedy for young and old lives alike. If this happens again, hopefully the world will be more prepared to help those who need help during a disease-driven isolation.


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