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Increased unemployment during COVID-19 crisis raises concerns about suicide

Increased unemployment during COVID-19 crisis raises concerns about suicide (Photo: KUTV)
Increased unemployment during COVID-19 crisis raises concerns about suicide (Photo: KUTV)
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Unemployment is always a risk factor for suicide. With unemployment in Utah now up more than 2,000%, there is more concern in a state that is already in the top 10 for death by suicide.

“As unemployment goes up, so do suicide rates,“ said Michael Staley, suicide prevention research coordinator for the Office of the Utah Medical Examiner.

Staley said mental health providers are on high alert in Utah and across the country, doing what they can to ensure everyone who needs help can get it.

See below for 24/7, free help in Utah.

It is too early to know how the COVID-19 crisis will impact suicide rates in the long term, but right now Staley and other experts are keeping an eye on death rates and hospital admissions to see how they relate to suicide during this time.

RELATED: Protecting your family's mental health during COVID-19

Tamara Gibo, managing member of Takashi Restaurant in downtown Salt Lake City, said she is doing everything she can to stay in touch with her employees while they are out of work.

Between the restaurant and bar next door, she oversees 70 employees. Right now, the restaurant is doing takeout —mostly to give hours to employees who need to work to supplement whatever unemployment benefits they receive, but most of her workers are home.

For now, she said her staff have been very kind to each other, giving up shifts to those who need the money most. She worries about people financially and emotionally if this crisis continues for a long time.

“The longer it goes, we become more concerned as people lose their financial stability, and that in itself creates a lot of mental health issues,“ Gibo said.

On top of that, she worries about those employees who live alone and feel more isolated during this period of social distancing.

“I definitely worry about people who miss the strong interaction with their coworkers — that’s a pretty strong support system,” she said.

RELATED: Coronavirus costs Utah woman 3 jobs as unemployment hits historic demand

One thing Staley hopes is that in other times of crisis like World War II or 9/11, there was a feeling of solidarity among people. That could be something that helps people through this crisis, too; people may feel less alone in their suffering.

Yet with so much uncertainty about how the virus will affect our lives in the near future, it’s important to let people know that if they feel hopeless there are ways to get help immediately.

Signs that someone could be at risk for suicide:

  • Feeling alone
  • Having thoughts of self harm
  • Feeling like life has no purpose
  • Feeling hopeless

If someone is spending all day in bed and not answering your phone calls, that’s another sign they need help

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8244 (TALK)

Crisis Text Line: Text 741-741

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Both have trained crisis counselors ready to help you 24/7.

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