While it’s easy to gloss over, many people are coming to terms with the sobering realization that COVID-19 has multiple repercussions that don’t just involve a flu virus. One that’s worth addressing and examining, particularly as it pertains to addicts, is mental health. More specifically, suicide (or suicidal thoughts).
According to a study in the British Journal of Psychiatry, nearly ⅕ of surveyed people reported having thoughts of suicide or self-harm during the first month of lockdown. Keep in mind, this is a random study and not a study conducted on addicts or alcoholics. These are everyday people, but alcohol and drug abuse are huge suicide risk factors, coming in second only to acute depression and other mood disorders. So, if almost 20% of the average, everyday population was considering suicide or self-harm in early lockdown, what does this tell you about addicts and alcoholics?
Of course, it’s all purely speculation and more data needs to be released, but there’s a strong likelihood, based on the numbers, that addicts and alcoholics are severely at risk of having suicidal thoughts right now. COVID-19 is definitely something communities need to take seriously, but the virus itself is only going to be one cause of pandemic-related deaths. Suicide and substance abuse are on the rise as a direct response to things like job loss, stress, financial insecurity, and isolation, all directly resulting from the shut-downs. For addicts and alcoholics, this is particularly scary as the rate of major depression is two to four times higher among addicts compared to the general population.
Remember, you’re not alone –– far from it
All of that being said, if you or a loved one is having self-harming or suicidal thoughts, it’s good to remember that you’re not alone. In fact, you’re very far from being alone. Practically the entire world is going through some form of lockdown while experiencing economic hardship, and many people are feeling uneasy, uncertain, and alone. While no one signed up for any of this, it still can be helpful to remember that there are quite a few people out there who can probably relate to what you’re going through, so stay connected to others.
Keep in mind that ”the opposite of addiction is connection” (quote from Johann Hari’s famous TED Talk, “Everything you think you know about Addiction is wrong”). If you’re feeling particularly alone right now, try picking up the phone and calling someone who might be able to relate to what you’re experiencing. You never know, you could actually be helping this person as well. If you’re still in lockdown or practicing self-isolation for health or other reasons, take advantage of apps like Zoom and Facetime to have face-to-face conversations with friends and family.
Get yourself to meetings
Make sure you’re going to regular meetings if you’re a member of a recovery fellowship like AA, NA, SMART Recovery or similar. If there are no in-person meetings in your hometown at the moment or if you’re uncomfortable attending them, check their websites for online meetings. The AA Intergroup site has a directory featuring over a thousand meetings worldwide, while SMART Recovery Online Community is also a great place to interact with other sober members of the community. For NA, check out Virtual NA for meetings online and by phone.
Try to go outside and be in nature if weather permits. Vitamin D is something our bodies need not only to stay healthy and build up our immune systems, but some studies also suggest a link between depression and low levels of vitamin D. Sunshine provides plenty of the stuff (Vitamin D), so don’t skimp on it if you can help it.
Make sure you’re also getting in some exercise, even if that means just walking around the block a few times. Exercise raises endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin levels which we’ve talked about extensively in other articles. All three of these are responsible for improving our moods. Getting proper exercise essentially leads to a natural high, much like what we would get from drugs or alcohol but without the hangover and other side effects.
Ask for help
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. The importance of connection was already mentioned, but taking it one step further and asking for help is so important if you’re genuinely feeling like you might harm yourself. Talk to your family, close friends, or a licensed therapist before doing anything drastic. You might be surprised at how quickly some words of wisdom, some professional advice, or just a friend coming by with ice cream and a hand to hold can help you to shift your perspective and start feeling good again. Just remember, life is precious and things can change very quickly, particularly your perception of things.
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and people need to be reminded that there’s so much help out there. While many of the people surveyed had suicidal thoughts during the first month of lockdown according to the report mentioned early on, less than half of them accessed mental health services. There are resources available, including free suicide prevention hotlines like Suicide Prevention Lifeline for 24/7 free and confidential support.
Kembali Recovery Center can Help
If you or someone you know and love is having suicidal thoughts, please seek help from a professional right away. You can start with the hotline mentioned above. If you’re struggling with alcoholism or addiction, Kembali Recovery Center can help. Contact us today to speak with a member of our staff or one of our counselors. You never have to do this alone.