Health, Life

Experts warn of higher suicidal tendency during pandemic due to isolation

Social restrictions, feeling of loneliness, fear of catching coronavirus can fuel tendency to commit suicide, say psychologists

Dilan Pamuk   | 10.09.2021
Experts warn of higher suicidal tendency during pandemic due to isolation


The rate of suicidal tendency may have risen with the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Turkey-based psychologist.

The long list of factors contributing to suicidal tendency may have become more common and intense with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Hatice Demirbas, the head of the Psychology Department of Haci Bayram Veli University in the Turkish capital Ankara, told Anadolu Agency.

Theoretically speaking, restrictions in social life, raptures in inter-personal relations, the feeling of loneliness, and increased rates of domestic violence may have had drastic outcomes during the quarantine periods and lockdowns triggered by the pandemic, she said.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, observed on Sept. 10 annually to raise awareness of suicide and prevent it in a bid to reveal a silver lining for the people struggling with challenges in their lives.

Psychological counselor Secim Buyukcatalbas, also based in Ankara, underlined that mental health specialists see the coronavirus pandemic as a threat that will affect public mental health in the long run.

She added that social isolation, quarantines, fear of getting infected, deaths due to COVID-19, and financial problems caused by the pandemic can lead to hopelessness and the feeling of loneliness, which may ruin the will to live.

Pointing out the rise in suicide rates following certain global crises such as World War II and the 1918 Spanish flu, Buyukcatalbas urged for the immediate inclusion of "post-COVID-19 suicide prevention" in global mental health policy to help people who fail to overcome depression after the pandemic not get mired in suicidal thoughts.

- Pandemic, high anxiety, suicide

Ankara-based clinical psychologist Elif Suna Ozbay, for her part, argued the rising rates of anxiety that the coronavirus brought into our lives.

"The possibility of losing someone that we love, and the fear of getting infected and being locked up inside our homes have had a negative impact on our anxiety," she said.

"Our biggest concern was that we did not have control over our own lives; because the pandemic shaped our lives while we could not do anything about it, and it spoiled our social life and added up to our anxiety," Ozbay continued.

With the COVID-19 vaccines developed, she said, the future in which we will return to our normal lives has started to loom, yet certain effects of the pandemic have become permanent for some people.

On the relation between anxiety disorder and suicide, Ozbay said that 50% of the people who attempt suicide have a history of depression, 70% an anxiety disorder, and 20-50% bipolar disorder. The possibility of committing suicide can be reduced if an anxiety disorder is diagnosed at an early stage, she advised.

The pandemic saw a rise in domestic violence rates, Ozbay said.

"One out of three women in the world was subjected to physical or sexual violence, mostly by their partners, even before the pandemic.

"Data released during the pandemic showed a climb in the number of calls domestic violence hotlines received in many countries after the coronavirus outbreak."

Domestic violence increases the risk of anxiety disorder especially in children under 14, she warned.

"With a genetic tendency in genes, the negative incidents children observe at home can develop into a mental disorder, such as attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder," the expert elaborated.​​​​​​​

She also observed an increase in the number of families who seek consultation due to family problems during the pandemic. "The statistics also showed that divorce suits filed in the UK rose 60% since the year before the pandemic," she added.

"I believe the pandemic accelerated the course of relationships. People started to experience relationships in a nutshell; that is, relationships that were doomed anyway reached their conclusion rapidly. And certainly, this added up to anxiety disorder. It is only natural for people to experience increased anxiety if they lack peace at home, in their families," Ozbay remarked.

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