Based on the findings of a recent study in the United States, mental health experts warn that the toll Covid-19 is taking on people’s mental health may lead to up to 75,000 suicides and substance-abuse-related deaths. The study refers to these casualties as “deaths of despair.”
Covid-19 is a stressor in itself, and isolation, anxiety, grief, and uncertainty only make things worse. According to a recent Bloomberg article, a collaboration between Well Being Trust and the American Academy of Family Physicians set out to calculate the number of possible deaths attributed to mental health stressors and drug abuse. The study, though not peer-reviewed, found that in the next 10 years, 75,000 could fall victim to these “deaths of despair.”
According to the article, economic uncertainty has a major effect on people’s mental health. In countries all around the world, including Singapore, businesses have been forced to close due to the quarantine measures implemented by the governments in response to the Covid-19 threat. This, in addition to the closure of international borders has lead the world into what economists have called “the worst recession since Great Depression.”
Furthermore, the current state of the world has brought about a general sense of distress. However, based on another study mentioned in the Bloomberg article, there are groups who experience a greater sense of this mental torment. Based on a study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in places significantly hit by Covid-19–states such as New York, California, and Washington, mental distress among people increased significantly. The study found that certain groups experienced more distress–those who consumed alcohol or took marijuana more times in the past week and those who’d taken in more media or been on social media. However, another particular group was surprisingly on the list–young individuals experienced a significant increase in mental distress, despite Covid-19 being more life-threatening for the elderly.
With the isolation that the circuit breaker has forced Singaporeans into and the number of Covid-19 cases in the country, which has made it number one on the list of Southeast Asian countries, Singapore would do well to take what it can from this research and not turn a blind eye to the issue of mental health.