A Looming Threat of Coronavirus: Suicide Prevention Helplines Are Getting More Calls

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The battle against the deadly Covid-19 pandemic is long, arduous and exasperating as there seems to be no easy end to it. At least, not anytime soon.  But the battle is not the same for everyone. While social distancing and nationwide lockdowns may come across as viable measures to curb the contagion, it has also led to increased risk of suicide.

A report by WHO published in 2016 showed that India had the highest rate of suicide in South Asia and no robust strategy to prevent it. India’s rate was 16.5 suicides per 100,000 people while globally, the rate was 10.5. And this was before the pandemic struck. Now, the threat of a deadly virus ravaging through the country has aggravated the suicide rate in India.

A study published in the Jama Psychiatry journal shows that efforts to reduce human contact to a minimum to spread the infection from spreading may eventually flatten the curve and slow down the virus, but it may pose another issue which might be a little more complicated to deal with – a surge in suicides.

The study lists a few factors which could be causing people to feel suicidal during the pandemic.

Economic stress. Job losses. Businesses shutting down. Industries coming to a standstill. Public events getting cancelled. A few days ago, reports suggested that the economic crisis brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic might be worse than the recession of 2009. UN’s labour organisation estimates the equivalent of 195 million full-time jobs could be lost in the second quarter alone from the COVID-19 outbreak, with businesses and plants shuttered worldwide.

Most of us are leading isolated lives right now and psychologists fear that may be causing irreparable damage to our mental health. Panic, depression, anxiety and paranoia have become more common among people who already battle mental health issues.

Dr. Jawahar Singh, a psychiatrist at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi, opined that that lack of awareness is one of the primary reasons why suicide rates are increasing in the light of the coronavirus outbreak in India. “People don’t really understand how the virus is spreading or what they should do if they begin showing symptoms. They do not know where to go or whom to approach if they need help and there is no way to educate them about it,” Dr. Singh said.

At present, the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 has crossed 18,000 in India with over 600 deaths. Yet, awareness about this disease is alarmingly low. India has at least 14% of its population living below the poverty line, and many of them might not even know about the deadly virus. As Dr. Singh explained, if an individual develops symptoms and has no clue about how to get tested or even approach the authorities, he or she would be left feeling helpless and desolate.

Fear of the unknown is another factor here. With no proper understanding of how the virus spreads, people don’t really know how they could pass it on to their family members and loved ones.

“People are getting scared without even getting tested. They don’t even know what’s happening. There has to be some awareness drive by the government, some sort of counselling to help the underprivileged people understand,” said Dr. Singh.

Dr. Singh also believes that the stigma associated with the disease may be crucial in increasing death rate caused by suicide in India.

The coronavirus is also bringing out another, darker side of some people: Fear, anger, resentment and shaming. Research has shown that human beings tend to castigate those who are ill in order to protect themselves from a deadly disease. “Fear of being ostracized from mainstream society and the shame which comes along with it may further push people to take their own lives,” he added.

“In Kerala, mental health is being treated with equal importance as physical health. People must realise that medical and mental health go hand in hand. Physicians treating Covid-19 patients must also assess if they require therapy and do the needful,” he said.

5 Ways To Support Your Employees’ Mental Health During A Pandemic

This article was written by Alan Kohll for Leadership Strategy at

We’re all feeling the impact of COVID-19. The global pandemic has impacted not only the physical health of many individuals but their mental health as well. If you’re anxious, depressed, or struggling to sleep through the night, you’re not alone. 

Across the country, we have seen spikes in depression, PTSD, domestic violence, and substance use problems. A poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows the psychological toll the pandemic is taking on Americans. According to the survey, 45% of adults say the pandemic has affected their mental health, and 19% say it has had a “major impact.” A survey by mental health provider Ginger found 69% of employees said the coronavirus is the most stressful time of their career, and 88% said they had experienced moderate to extreme stress over the past four to six weeks.

The research makes one thing clear: The pandemic has greatly impacted daily life as we know it and is taking its toll on all of us. To learn more about the impact of COVID-19 on mental health in the workplace and because May is Mental Health Month, I recently spoke with Nancy Reardon, Chief Strategy and Product Officer at Maestro Health. Today In: Leadership Strategy

“Right now, employees are currently experiencing more fear and anxiety than usual. The uncertainty about the state of their health, jobs and the future are causing employees to feel heightened levels of stress,” said Nancy. 

This means it’s the perfect opportunity for leaders to demonstrate their commitment to their employees’ mental health and overall well-being. Here are five ways that employers can support their employees during a pandemic, based on my conversation with Nancy. 

1) Utilize technology to offer mental health resources

Technology is a great enabler. Employees are turning to collaboration tools and video conferences to discuss work and maintain relationships with co-workers while working from home, which can have a positive effect on employee well-being. 

20% of working-age adults report having a mental illness, yet many are unsure if their company offers comprehensive mental health resources. With employees working remotely, now is the time to use technology to provide a variety of mental health programs, such as licensed counselors on call, meditation platforms and virtual education for employees to learn coping mechanisms and stress management. 

2) Use this opportunity to reduce the stigma

Often the fear of stigma prevents some employees from getting the help they need. It’s not necessarily an easy topic to discuss, but starting the conversation can lessen the stigma while providing education. Use your employee wellness program to educate and provide resources for self-help and self-care. Bringing in a virtual therapist to discuss ways of recognizing symptoms, improving mental health, and seeking outside help can also be helpful.

“We need to continually reinforce the importance of taking care of your mental well-being as you do your physical well-being. We can’t continue to separate the mind from the body – they are one,” says Nancy.

3) Double-down on communication

Communicating clearly with your workforce about the mental health and well-being resources available to them and showing empathy in a time of crisis can go a long way – not just for the overall well-being of your employees but for the company’s health long-term. 

Managers and HR should also communicate consistently about mental health resources offered and covered in employees’ benefits plans, such as counselors they can call, meditation and stress management services and access to employee assistance programs. 

The challenges employees are currently facing won’t be instantly resolved when the crisis eventually ends, which is why it’s important to continue communicating about mental well-being even after things return to the “new normal.”

4) Prioritize well-being in your benefits plan

Companies should prioritize their employees’ entire well-being, including physical, mental and financial health, all year round – not just during a crisis. Companies should have these resources built into their benefits plan to show they care about their workforce beyond this period in time. Increased levels of stress lead to more doctor’s visits, which means increased healthcare costs to the employer. By making the overall well-being of your workforce a top priority, company leaders can ensure they emerge as a healthier and more united organization after experiencing a major crisis. 

“Educating employees on the mental well-being resources available to them doesn’t just apply in times of crisis or during open enrollment. Proactively preparing your workforce for future mental health-related issues can prevent employees from feeling fear of the unknown because they are equipped with information that can help them navigate on stressors like insurance costs, where to go for doctor visits and which mental health counselors are in their network,” said Nancy.

5)  Show empathy and leadership

Employees are feeling a sense of uncertainty and heightened stress right now – about their health, job and financial security. Leaders who show they care about individual employees and provide mental health guidance right now can help boost spirits. Managers should take extra steps during this time to check in with their team on a daily basis about things other than work. Host video calls to keep up employee morale and promote a larger conversation about overall well-being. Remind employees to take mental and physical breaks, exercise and participate in other non-work-related activities to reduce anxiety and improve productivity.

“For some leaders, working from home means being ‘plugged in’ 24/7 and employees can end up with additional work-related stress. By making an effort to let employees log off and go for a walk, spend time with family or just take time for themselves, leaders can better foster a stress-free environment in uncertain times,” said Nancy. 

During this time of uncertainty and stress, the need to prioritize individual health and well-being is stronger now than ever, and companies can help by having a caring and empathetic work culture. We must keep mental health as a key focus throughout this pandemic. Leaders who show compassion and put employees’ well-being first during this time will see their workforce continue to be healthy and productive.

How To Protect Your Mental Health During The Coronavirus Pandemic, According To Psychologists

The following article was written by Noma Nazish for ForbesLife

As news about the coronavirus outbreak continues to dominate the headlines and millions of people—in the U.S. and the world over—are being asked to self-quarantine, it has become increasingly significant to pay as much attention to our mental health as we do to our physical health. 

“Pandemics such as the one we are currently grappling with often ignite fear, anxiety and erratic behaviors,” says Dr. Kelly Vincent, a licensed clinical psychologist practicing in Encinitas, California. “When fear takes control, both our nervous system and emotional part of our brain go into overdrive. This response can lead to impulsiveness, panic and feeling out of control emotionally,” she explains. “If a person has a preexisting mental illness or history with anxiety and depression, it can often worsen and intensify during times such as these,” Dr. Vincent points out. And if the stress and anxiety worsen, “it may trigger negative physical symptoms such as an elevated heart rate, insomnia, digestive issues, weakness and fatigue,” tells Dr. Janine Kreft, an Austin-based clinical psychologist. 

If you’ve been feeling anxious, frustrated, angry or downright confused lately, know that you’re not alone—we are all in this together. So take a deep breath and follow these handy, expert-backed strategies to improve your mental and emotional well-being:

  • Cut back news and social media intake. “I would encourage everyone to limit their exposure to the news and to customize their social media feeds—by following more accounts and pages that make them feel good—regardless of the current pandemic,” says Dr. Kreft. “Your brain is built to problem solve. And when you are already feeling fearful, it naturally seeks out stimuli in your external environment to reinforce the feeling of fear. The brain then deletes, distorts and generalizes all incoming information that does not align with your current emotional state or beliefs. So if you spend a significant amount of time following the news, it reinforces more reason to worry— thus creating a vicious cycle,” explains the mental health expert. To keep fear and panic at bay, Dr. Kreft recommends limiting your news consumption to about five to ten minutes per day and setting a similar time limit for checking your social media accounts. In addition, if someone you follow is sharing posts that are often inaccurate or perturbing, try muting their posts to stop seeing their updates. 
  • Get information from only reliable sources. Some legitimate and reliable sources of COVID-19-related news and updates include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), John Hopkins’ Coronavirus Resource Center and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “It is helpful to adopt a more analytical approach as you follow news reports about the coronavirus. You will also want to verify information that you receive from family, friends or social media,” says the American Psychological Association (APA). Moreover, “consume only what you need to know, what’s most relevant to you and particularly what is happening or anticipated in your own community,” suggests the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). 
  • Keep things in perspective. “Take a deep breath and remind yourself that most people who contract COVID-19 will only experience mild symptoms,” says APA. “Work is being done to help people who may be more vulnerable to the coronavirus, such as senior citizens and those with underlying health conditions,” it adds. The most important thing you can do to help yourself and your loved ones is to take all the precautions, including washing hands and practicing social distancing. 
  • Plan ahead and create a routine. “With the closures of businesses and schools, creating a go-forward plan for you and your family will help keep your mind at ease. This could mean creating an at-home routine and schedule for remote work amid social distancing,” says Dr. Mimi Winsberg, co-founder and chief medical officer of Brightside. “Emulate your life before COVID-19 to the best of your ability—follow the same schedule of when you wake up, when you eat and when you go to sleep,” suggests the mental health specialist. “Focus on things that are actually in your control and create action plans to address them,” she adds.
  • Stay connected with your family and friends. “Maintaining social networks can foster a sense of normality and provide valuable outlets for sharing feelings and relieving stress,” states APA. “You can maintain these connections without increasing your risk of getting the virus by talking on the phone, texting or chatting with people on social media platforms,” it adds. In addition, you can take virtual tours together of museumsnational parks and other sites via Google Arts & Culture, tune in to live-streamed concerts and other events or play online games with friends, suggests NAMI.
  • Simply breathe. Practicing deep breathing or meditation are also great ways to alleviate stress and anxiety. Deep breathing helps you regulate your emotions by activating your parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS)—which helps slow the heart rate and restore the feeling of calm, tells Dr. Vincent. Similarly, meditating for just five to ten minutes every morning can also prove to be beneficial, says Dr. Kreft. Here are some easy-to-do breathing exercisesthat can help you relax in ten minutes or less. 
  • Keep yourself busy. Engaging in activities that distract you from current events can also be helpful, suggests NAMI. You can watch your favorite movies and TV shows, pick up a new hobby like baking or DIY crafts, join an online fitness class or enroll in a free online university course. “You can also currently stream the Met Opera for free,” notes NAMI. What’s more, “the NFL and NBAare also offering complimentary access to online streaming platforms,” it adds. 
  • Move around. Physical activity helps ease anxiety and improve your mood by producing stress-relieving hormones called endorphins. In fact, according to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, exercising for as little as ten minutes can boost happiness. Here’s a no-equipment, full-body workout you can easily do at home. 
  • Prioritize nutrition. “Stress can spike cravings for comfort foods that are high in sugar and saturated fats,” says Dr. Winsberg. “While the instant gratification may be appealing, these types of foods often lead to an immediate high and subsequent crash that can increase stress, irritability, and anxiety,” she explains. When choosing snacks and meals, opt for foods that are high in protein and potassium as they have shown to help calm mood, tells Dr. Winsberg.
  • Make time for self-care. “When stress heightens, it is easy for us to let go of our positive self-care practices, prioritizing other activities—like work and household chores. Yet this is the time we ought to practice self-care the most,” tells Dr. Kreft. So carve out some time for yourself every day, even when you’re hunkered down, to do something that makes you feel good. Whether it’s journaling, reading a book, playing with your pet or listening to music or your favorite podcast. Also, don’t forget the critical self-care activities like eating healthy, getting adequate sleep and regular physical activity, adds NAMI
  • Check your thoughts. “Fear feeds off of negative thoughts and beliefs. So try reframing your thoughts to manage your emotions better,” says Dr. Vincent. For example, “this is a scary time right now, but I choose to focus on what I can control—like washing my hands, avoiding going outside and engaging in self-care activities.” “Writing down positive affirmations right when you wake up or before going to bed can also be very powerful in rewiring your mindset,” tells Dr. Kreft. 
  • Communicate with your kids. It’s important to take care of your kids’ mental and emotional health as well. “Be honest and open with your children. And give them space to process their feelings, especially feelings of fear and anxiety,” tells Dr. Vincent. Besides, “modeling self-care for your kids is also imperative. When they see you doing it, they will often take interest and follow as well,” says Dr. Kreft. So engage in self-care activities with them like washing hands, eating healthy meals, exercising or meditating together, limiting social media exposure, etc. Additionally, “try to maintain a normal routine as much as possible—because kids thrive off of a schedule of some kind,” suggests Dr. Vincent. “It can be disorienting and confusing for them if routines are thrown off,” she tells.
  • Be there for others. The “helper” therapy principle shows that helping others is also a benefit to the helper, states NAMI. In Spain, group exercise classes are being conducted for quarantined residents on their balconies. While in the UK, a retired carer is delivering food parcels to the elderly. Similarly, Canadians have kickstarted the ‘caremongering’ trend—where people volunteer to run errands and do chores for those in need. Here are some humanitarian aid organizations in the U.S. that you can get involved with. 

If the symptoms of stress and anxiety worsen and you feel it is impairing your ability to function, please speak to an experienced mental health professional at the earliest.  “For anyone who is unsure about attending therapy sessions outside the home, especially those who the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has described as being at higher risk, you can ask your health care provider about tele-therapy or mental health services online,” notes NAMI

9 Ways You Can Improve Your Mental Health Today

The following article was written by Patricia Harteneck, Ph.D., MBA for The Seleni Institute and was posted on

Mental health is much more than a diagnosis. It’s your overall psychological well-being—the way you feel about yourself and others as well as your ability to manage your feelings and deal with everyday difficulties. And while taking care of your mental health can mean seeking professional support and treatment, it also means taking steps to improve your emotional health on your own. Making these changes will pay off in all aspects of your life. It can boost your mood, build resilience, and add to your overall enjoyment of life:

1. Tell yourself something positive. 

Research shows that how you think about yourself can have a powerful effect on how you feel. When we perceive our self and our life negatively, we can end up viewing experiences in a way that confirms that notion. Instead, practice using words that promote feelings of self-worth and personal power. For example, instead of saying, “I’m such a loser. I won’t get the job because I tanked in the interview,” try, “I didn’t do as well in the interview as I would have liked, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to get the job.”

2. Write down something you are grateful for. 

Gratitude has been clearly linked with improved well-being and mental health, as well as happiness. The best-researched method to increase feelings of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal or write a daily gratitude list. Generally contemplating gratitude is also effective, but you need to get regular practice to experience long-term benefits. Find something to be grateful for, let it fill your heart, and bask in that feeling.

3. Focus on one thing (in the moment). 

Being mindful of the present moment allows us to let go of negative or difficult emotions from past experiences that weigh us down. Start by bringing awareness to routine activities, such as taking a shower, eating lunch, or walking home. Paying attention to the physical sensations, sounds, smells, or tastes of these experiences helps you focus. When your mind wanders, just bring it back to what you are doing.

4. Exercise. 

Your body releases stress-relieving and mood-boosting endorphins before and after you work out, which is why exercise is a powerful antidote to stress, anxiety, and depression. Look for small ways to add activity to your day, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or going on a short walk. To get the most benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, and try to do it outdoors. Exposure to sunlight helps your body produce vitamin D, which increases your level of serotonin in the brain. Plus, time in nature is a proven stress reducer.

5. Eat a good meal. 

What you eat nourishes your whole body, including your brain. Carbohydrates (in moderate amounts) increase serotonin, a chemical that has been shown to have a calming effect on your mood. Protein-rich foods increase norepinephrine, dopamine, and tyrosine, which help keep you alert. And vegetables and fruits are loaded with nutrients that feed every cell of your body, including those that affect mood-regulating brain chemicals. Include foods with Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in fish, nuts, and flaxseed.) Research shows that these nutrients can improve mood and restore structural integrity to the brain cells necessary for cognitive function.article continues after advertisement

6. Open up to someone.

Knowing you are valued by others is important for helping you think more positively. Plus, being more trusting can increase your emotional well-being because as you get better at finding the positive aspects in other people, you become better at recognizing your own. 

7. Do something for someone else. 

Research shows that being helpful to others has a beneficial effect on how you feel about yourself. Being helpful and kind—and valued for what you do—is a great way to build self-esteem. The meaning you find in helping others will enrich and expand your life.

8. Take a break. 

In those moments when it all seems like too much, step away, and do anything but whatever was stressing you out until you feel a little better. Sometimes the best thing to do is a simple breathing exercise: Close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths. For each one, count to four as you inhale, hold it for a count of four, and then exhale for another four. This works wonders almost immediately.

9. Go to bed on time. 

A large body of research has shown that sleep deprivation has a significant negative effect on your mood. Try to go to bed at a regular time each day, and practice good habits to get better sleep. These include shutting down screens for at least an hour before bed, using your bed only for sleep or relaxing activities, and restricting caffeinated drinks for the morning.

Start today. You have the power to take positive steps right now to improve your resilience and emotional health. Don’t wait until you’re in a crisis to make your mental health a priority. Besides, it is easier to form new habits when you are feeling strong. You can then implement those habits when you need them most. Pick something from this article that resonates with you and try it. Then, try something else. Slowly putting in place routines, habits, and regular patterns will help you feel better through gradual change.