Doctors at John Muir Medical Center near San Francisco, California, say they’ve seen more deaths by suicide in the last month than deaths from coronavirus, according to a local ABC affiliate — suicides they say are the direct result of the state’s shelter-in-place order.
“Personally I think it’s time,” Dr. Mike deBoisblanc, the emergency department head at Jon Muir, told ABC News Bay Area. “I think, originally, [the shelter-in-place order] was put in place to flatten the curve and to make sure hospitals have the resources to take care of COVID patients. We have the current resources to do that and our other community health is suffering.”
He went on to say that the hospital has seen a “year’s worth of suicide attempts” over the course of the last month, as businesses fail, jobs are lost, people become isolated, and access to mental health services is made more difficult by the California lockdown.
“We’ve never seen numbers like this, in such a short period of time,” he said. “I mean we’ve seen a year’s worth of suicide attempts in the last four weeks.”
Other hospital officials at John Muir say suicide attempts, made over the past month, were also more likely to end in death, not recovery.
“What I have seen recently, I have never seen before,”one trauma nurse added. “I have never seen so much intentional injury.”
“They intend to die,” she added. “Sometimes, people will make what we call a ‘gesture.’ It’s a cry for help. We’re just seeing something a little different than that right now. It’s upsetting.”
The hospital itself said in a statement that it is largely supportive of the state’s lockdown, which ends on May 31. And, it says, the shelter-in-place order has saved many lives from coronavirus and prevented state hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. But, officials point out, there are downsides and costs to such policies.
The executive director of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, Tom Tamura, does say that individuals prone to suicide attempts during the lockdown have been very receptive to mental health resources — perhaps more so than patients that typically contact the hotline in times of crisis.
“Generally speaking the vast majority of people say they feel better after they call and get the resources they need,” Tamura told the Daily Mail. “With help comes hope. I think that there are people and organizations out there that you can contact that can get you the information you need and resources you need to get you through this tough time.”
“I think people have found themselves disconnected from the normal supportive networks that they have, churches and schools and book clubs, you name it,” Tamura added, getting to the root of the problem. “And that, coupled with the closure of some counseling services, people were maybe in a little bit of shock. They were trying to weather the storm a bit but as that isolation has grown people have come to realize this isn’t a sprint it is marathon.”