Why COVID-19 may increase the risk of suicide

Key points

  • The social isolation, financial difficulties, difficulty in obtaining support, and other problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have caused an increase in stress, anxiety, and depression for many Americans.
  • All these factors may put some people-including health care professionals and frontline workers-at a higher risk of suicide.
  • It’s important to talk to your loved ones, and it’s also important to take care of your mental health. If you or someone you love is considering suicide, please contact available resources, including suicide hotlines.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused some major changes in the way society operates. Many of these changes may increase the risk of suicide for some people.

Current research shows that many Americans are now feeling more distressed by the pandemic. A national consumer survey conducted by McKinsey from March 27 to March 29, 2020, found that 63% of Americans feel anxious, depressed, or both. 80% of Americans say they feel moderate or high pain. In addition, one in four Americans reported drinking alcohol during the last week.

There are several factors related to the pandemic that may put some people at particularly high risk of suicide.

Social isolation

Although social distancing is an important part of managing the spread of COVID-19, it can have serious effects on the mental health of some people. For those with suicidal thoughts, less social interaction may greatly increase the risk of suicidal behavior.

A study published in 2018 Journal of Affective Disorders It is found that social isolation and loneliness are the key factors leading to suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Therefore, people who live alone may have a particularly high risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors while maintaining social distancing or being isolated. In addition, anyone else who experiences more loneliness during a pandemic may also be at higher risk.

Financial distress

Asylum-in-place regulations have caused many people to lose their jobs. These people may now be struggling to obtain unemployment assistance or find other sources of income. Their financial difficulties may put them at a higher risk of suicide.

In addition, there are concerns that an economic recession may be imminent. Many people have already lost money in the stock market, and many companies may not be able to recover even if the shelter-in-place order is cancelled.

Historically, economic recession has been linked to higher suicide rates. A 2015 study found that during economic recessions, suicide rates tend to increase.

Little community support

Many people rely on the collective support of the community to play their best role. But almost all community activities and plans have been cancelled.

In addition, most religious groups have cancelled all face-to-face activities. For many people, participating in religious ceremonies is the key to maintaining good mental health.

A study published in 2016 American Medical Association Psychiatry It was found that weekly participation in religious ceremonies was associated with a five-fold reduction in suicide rate. If unable to participate in church services and community activities, people may feel more isolated than ever, which may greatly increase their risk of suicide.

Treatment disorders

During the pandemic, many mental health treatment centers did not personally receive patients. Although some treatment providers have turned to online and telephone treatment, others may not provide services at all.

Support groups, outpatient centers, and many day programs suspended services during the pandemic. This also includes substance abuse treatment groups, such as anonymous alcoholics.

It may also be more difficult for individuals to see a doctor or psychiatrist. This may make it difficult to refill the medicine.

Media reports

Continued news reports about the pandemic may have a negative impact on the well-being of individuals. Reports of death toll and community transmission can immediately cause anxiety to spike.

Depressing news may increase the severity of pre-existing mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. It may also increase substance use.

Health care workers risk

Studies have found that doctors generally have a high risk of suicide—especially female doctors. Their work-related stress may increase their risk of various mental health problems.

In fact, during a pandemic, the risk of suicide for medical professionals may be particularly high. Lack of personal protective equipment, seeing colleagues getting sick, and fear of contracting viruses are just a few factors that can have a serious impact on health.

But it’s not just doctors who feel the pressure. A study of medical staff in Wuhan, China found that during the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses and other frontline workers are more likely to experience psychological distress, including anxiety and depression.

How to check relatives

If you are worried about your friends or family, please contact them. Ask them how they are doing. Be sure to acknowledge what a stressful time this is and encourage them to share how they deal with the emotions caused by the current situation.

If you suspect that they have suicidal thoughts, please do not hesitate to ask. Ask your questions directly, such as “Have you ever thought of hurting yourself?” or “Have you ever thought of ending your life?”

If there is an imminent risk of suicide, please call 911 or your local police station. An imminent risk may mean that the individual intends to execute a plan or has engaged in suicidal behavior, such as taking medication.

If the danger is not imminent, encourage the person to seek help from a mental health professional. Make it clear that they should feel better and that you are willing to guide them to get the help they need.

If you have questions about how or what to do, please contact the suicide prevention or crisis hotline to discuss the situation.

If you are worried about the happiness of your loved one, it is also important to take care of yourself. You may go to the therapist yourself, or you may contact someone you trust to help you deal with the emotion you are dealing with.


If you have suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. It is free, confidential, and provides 24/7 service for anyone experiencing emotional distress.

You can also contact the crisis text line. Send a text message to HOME to 741741 and contact a trained crisis consultant via text message. Anyone in the U.S. and Canada can get 24/7 free support.

Calling your primary care doctor or your local emergency room is always an option.

What this means to you

If you have suicidal thoughts, be sure to seek professional help. If you suspect that your loved one may be suicidal, it is important to support their efforts to seek help. Talk therapy, medication or a combination of services have proven to be helpful. Hospitalization may be required in an acute crisis.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means that you may receive updated information while reading this article. For the latest updates on COVID-19, please visit our Coronavirus News page.