The hardest question you’ll ever ask might be even more difficult if you aren’t in person…

But it’s still important – possibly even more important

By Mark Kaufman, MSW, LICSW • JFCS Counselor

September is National Suicide Awareness Prevention Month. One year ago, I wrote about how hard it can be to ask someone if they are thinking about suicide and called attention to the importance of asking the question instead of avoiding it – you won’t plant the idea if they weren’t thinking it already. 

That’s still true. And now in 2020, we have complications: the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing; the killing of George Floyd and racial unrest; wildfires in the West; political tensions with a contentious election year – all of these act to both increase depression and compound the experience of it. They reduce options many of us would normally use to manage stress and depressive symptoms through social contact and mutual support.

Depression is on the rise, in fact. A recent study shows that prevalence of depression symptoms tripled during the pandemic. That may not be surprising if you have noticed how hard it is to maintain mental health as you go through the precautions we have all been taking to avoid getting sick. Where depression rises, we should look for increases in suicides and suicide attempts. It’s a bit too soon for any hard data on the impact of COVID, but there are a number of ways it might impact it. Early in the pandemic, there was a spike in gun sales, and the presence of a gun in the home is a major risk factor for suicide. There are also increases in substance abuse and incidents of domestic violence. Add in the increase in isolation, increases in psychiatric symptoms, and you are beginning to have a significantly increased risk for suicide.

As is often to be expected, communities of color, people with disabilities (notably people with psychiatric disabilities who were already isolated and marginalized) have been hit hardest with COVID, economic insecurity, depression and anxiety. I suspect we will see increases in suicides in these groups.

Please reach out to the people who may be suffering alone. If you are worried that someone may be suicidal, it is worthwhile to ask.

Therapists at JFCS are doing online therapy and continue to take new clients. Our services are confidential. We accept most insurance including Medicare. Please call at 952-542-4843.