How COVID-19 economy may impact suicide rates and drug overdoses

An analysis shows the economic impact of COVID-19 could result in an additional 40,000 deaths by suicide and drug overdoses.

The report put together by Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute in Austin looked at previous recessions and suicide and drug overdose rates around those times.

According to national data from 2007 to 2010, the suicide rate went up by 1.6 percentage points for each percentage unemployment rose.

"So we knew pretty early on that COVID-19 was going to be affecting people's mental health," said Andy Keller, president and CEO of Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute. "I mean, there's a lot of ways that happens. It can happen through social isolation. It can happen through fear. I think a lot of us are feeling a lot of anxiety, and many of us still are."

According to experts, mental health impact could even be worse for people in the oil and gas industry, which was already struggling before COVID-19.

"Because it's affected the whole economy and all the sectors, there's not as many easy jobs to go to pick up. So, sometimes there's cycles in the oil industry, that part of the deal is prices go up and down. But there's not that same elasticity in the workforce," Keller said.

Keller says he hopes the results of this study will lead to better preparedness to help mitigate deaths from drug overdoses and suicide. He urges people to get help as soon as possible if they're struggling with mental health or substance abuse.


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