‘The numbers are unprecedented…’
A sign for the UC Davis Medical Center / IMAGE: ABC10 via YouTube
“The numbers are unprecedented,” Dr. Michael deBoisblanc of John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, California, told ABC 7 News.
In the past four weeks alone, deBoisblanc’s hospital has seen a “year’s worth of suicides,” he said.
Kacey Hansen, a trauma center nurse at John Muir Medical Center, said she’s seen a growing number of suicide attempts, too. And it’s becoming increasingly difficult to save all of these patients, she explained..
“What I have seen recently, I have never seen before,” Hansen said. “I have never seen so much intentional injury.”
These deaths of despair make it clear that it’s time to end the shelter-in-place orders, deBoisblanc said.
“Personally I think it’s time,” he said. “I think, originally, this 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.”
The loss of community and the growing sense of isolation is affecting the mental well-being of Americans, said Tom Tamura, the executive director of the Contra Costa County Crisis Center.
“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 said.
“And that, coupled with the closure of some counseling services, people were maybe in a little bit of shock,” he continued. “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.”
A study published in early May argued that the coronavirus shutdown could lead to at least 75,000 deaths directly caused by anxiety about the virus, job loss, or an addiction to alcohol or drugs.
California isn’t the only part of the country facing alarmingly high suicide rates. In late March, more people died of suicide in a single Tennessee county than of the coronavirus in the entire state.
Nine people committed suicide in under 48 hours in Knox County, according to Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, while only six people in all of Tennessee died from COVID-19.
“Is what we are doing now really the best approach?” Jacobs told the Tennessee Star. “How can we respond to COVID-19 in a way that keeps our economy intact, keeps people employed, and empowers our people with a feeling of hope and optimism, not desperation and despair?”