On top of the thousands of deaths from COVID-19, we’re starting to see more of what experts call “deaths of despair” – deaths from drug or alcohol misuse and suicide.
According to new research by Well Being Trust and the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies, as many as 75,000 more people will die from drug or alcohol overdoses and suicide during the pandemic and over the next ten years.
These new deaths would come on top of the roughly 120,000 individuals who already die from drug overdose and suicide each year.
The problem spreads throughout the U.S., with a federal report showing recent spikes in fatal and non-fatal overdoses in Memphis, Tennessee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Franklin County, Ohio. Other places, like Jacksonville, Florida, Virginia and parts of New York have reported similar trends.
Three factors appear to be at work:
- The economic collapse and massive unemployment
- Mandated social isolation for months
- Uncertainty caused by this previously unknown virus
The U.S. healthcare system will have to take steps to help people already addicted to opioids or who have mental health disorders. But for anyone struggling with the effects of COVID-19, here are some ways to cope:
- Take care of your body, by exercising, eating well, sleeping, and meditating.
- Create time to unwind and do activities you enjoy.
- Take breaks from the news during the day, including social media.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Connect with others and share your concerns and how you are feeling.
And if you’re feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or you know someone who does, call your doctor, 911, or the National Disaster Distress Helpline.