The COVID-19 pandemic brings suffering, and instability, and dislocation, and trauma, and loss. And it brings death. It brings the death of individuals, it brings the statistics of death, it brings the ratings of death, it brings accountability for death. It brings a constant chatter about death--death that has come, death that is here, death that is yet to come.
Death is both a physical manifestation of personal tragedy and loss; death is an abstraction that is used as an illustration, as a sign, as the symbol and harbinger of this or that. Death becomes the marker because of the identity between pandemic and death. This is not the orderly death that can be understood by the application of the metrics of the cycle of life, a production line in the factory ordering undifferentiated passages from birth to death, nor is this death that is positioned at the end of ordinary medical protocols for the ordinary experiences of life. It is the ultimate terror--it brings with it the potential of death, where everyone is potentially marked even as only some suffer directly or indirectly. But in the process death becomes the air we breathe, it becomes the substance of the information we receive. It is the subtext of all communication and the excuse for every action. We are choking on the fumes of death and touched by its drama as it is played out in personal tragedy projected through the miracle of technology to all corners of the earth.
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Every one of us experiences death, engages with it, and participates in its passage from a potentiality on the horizon, to the whirlwind that uproots everything, to the detritus of an engagement around us that is indifferent to the way in which we clean it up. Death comes in the petri dishes that cruise ships have sometimes become; it surrounds islands of isolation like the rising sea, always threatening to overwhelm those islands of isolation situated precariously between the satisfaction of prevention and the guilt of as passive witness of the flows of death swirling about them. witness. To avoid testing is to tempt Death, to test positive is to acquire a marker of death's potential.
The last three paragraphs are histrionic; they read like a bad poem; they are suffocating. They mean to convey intensity, panic, emotion, alarm, and all of the other reactions appropriate to a crisis of this kind. They are meant to contribute to a narrative that is useful for getting people to take the pandemic seriously, and to treat institutional instructions with even greater seriousness. News reports, governmental statements, the analysis of experts, the attention of social media--all of these add layers that in the end read like a constantly reinforcing reminder of societal distress at a macro and micro level.
At the same time there are stories. And these stories of those who in the face of epidemic chose that path are worthy of retelling. A few of those stories follow. Suicide is an an abstraction; it is the sum of the stories of individuals confronted by a context of meaning, of significance, we have all helped to build.
By Allison SmithLast week, 34-year-old nurse Daniella Trezzi, who worked in the COVID-19 intensive care ward of San Gerardo hospital at Monza, near Milan, learned that she had been infected with the disease. Distraught at the idea that she could have spread the coronavirus to others before she learned that she carried the disease, and facing the relentless working conditions at a hospital in the epicenter of the pandemic in Europe, Trezzi tragically committed suicide.
31 March 2020
The National Federation of Italian Nurses (FNOPI) said in a brief statement about her death that Ms. Trezzi and many nurses treating quarantined patients showing COVID-19 symptoms feel “heavy stress for fear of having infected others.” The Federation noted the “pain and dismay” of its members “at the news of her death.”
Trezzi had studied at the Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca and lived with her dog in Brugherio. She leaves behind a brother and many friends and colleagues. Her Facebook page, which was still accessible yesterday, made clear her love of nature and travel and her dedication to her chosen profession.
In the wake of Trezzi’s suicide, the FNOPI implored: “Each of us has chosen this profession for good and, unfortunately, also for bad: we are nurses. And nurses, all nurses, never leave anyone alone, even at risk—and this is evident—of their own lives. But that’s enough: we must not, we cannot, abandon the nurses.”
This tragedy points to the terrible human cost not only of the COVID-19 pandemic, but of decades of social austerity policies that have left hospitals across Europe understaffed, overworked and without life-saving protection equipment like masks to shield medical staff from the contagion.
Now, amid the greatest global pandemic since the Spanish flu of 1918–1919, millions of nurses and medical professionals internationally are working around the clock with little or no protective gear. Across Europe tens of thousands of medical staff have contracted the disease, and health workers represent a staggering one in eight of Spain’s now 85,195 COVID-19 cases. They share images of exhausted colleagues, as hospitals buckle under the stress of treating thousands of COVID-19 intensive care patients each day.
Medical staff undergo unbearable stress, helplessly watching COVID-19 patients die alone. Dr. Francesca Cortellaro, head of the emergency room of the Borromeo hospital, told Euronews: “Do you see the emergency room? COVID-19 patients enter alone, no relatives can attend, and when they are about to leave they sense it. They are lucid, they do not go to narcolepsy.”
The stress is intensified by the contradictory messages and policies from European governments, which repeatedly made false comparisons of COVID-19 to seasonal flu to downplay the illness and try to force workers back to work to boost corporate profits in the middle of the pandemic.
Monica Trombetta, a nurse working in Como, near Monza, told the press: “We’re very tired and afraid. Government decrees change every day. Personnel does not have clear guidelines for dealing with this new virus and feel a little abandoned—not by our hospital, but it’s just as a general feeling. Nurses are afraid to go home and potentially infect their relatives.”
Nurses—who by the very nature of their job, spend the most time with patients—are particularly vulnerable to suicidal feelings. Nurse suicides have become a global epidemic, with US female and male nurses committing suicide at rates of 11.97 and 39.8 per 100,000 respectively last year, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. In their extremely high-pressure environment, demands for optimal performance are a decisive factor in intensifying feelings of distress and depression.
In Britain, a young nurse in her 20s working at King’s College Hospital in London took her own life while treating COVID-19 patients last week. Her colleagues found her unresponsive in her ward, and doctors were unable to resuscitate her. Her next of kin have been notified, but the hospital did not release her identity.
Several British hospital trusts are reporting that up to 50 percent of their medical staff are at home, sick with COVID-19, leaving remaining staff wondering who will look after them and the massive daily influx of COVID-19 patients if they too fall ill with the virus.
Having infected hundreds of thousands of people, COVID-19 is ravaging hospitals in all of Europe. This exposes the malignant neglect of European officials for the fate of the broad mass of working people. Chancellor Angela Merkel called for Germans to accept that 70 to 80 percent of the population would get sick, and British officials calling for Britons to develop “herd immunity” by infecting almost the entire population with coronavirus. Based on these policies, they pressed for workers to continue working to churn out profits for big corporations.
Such proposals, which entail hundreds of millions catching COVID-19, would provoke a crisis hundreds or thousands of times more severe than the horrors already being visited on the population and health staff of northern Italy and other hard-hit regions. That such proposals are advanced by leading European governments make clear the political and moral degeneracy of the existing social system, and the callous indifference of the ruling class to the human tragedies that are unfolding.
Also last week in Italy, a 49-year-old nurse who worked in the COVID-19 ward of Jesolo hospital committed suicide, throwing herself into the Piave river in Cortellazzo, in the region of Venice.
The nurse, whose initials are S.L., had courageously volunteered to work with coronavirus patients and helped convert the Jesolo hospital into a COVID-19-only ward. S.L. lived alone and was at home for two days with fever, awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test, when she took her own life.
Paying his respects to S.L., her hospital director said: “She was a person dedicated to work, an irreplaceable resource for colleagues and for this health authority. Not by chance, as soon as we heard the news of her disappearance, colleagues at the hospital in Jesolo, who are busy these days on the coronavirus front, were deeply affected and shaken by the event. I express my deepest condolences and closeness to the family of ‘our nurse’ S.L.”
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Suicide prevention groups are seeing an uptick in calls during the COVID-19 pandemic and want to remind you that help is available while we deal with tough times.
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Last week, a 44-year-old woman took her life by jumping off of an Advocate Christ Medical Center parking garage. During this COVID-19 crisis, suicide prevention organizations are seeing an increase in calls.
"I think our whole entire industry is seeing an uptick," said Jonny Boucher, CEO of Hope for the Day. "Right now, people are reaching out whether it's through the lifelines, our website, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter."
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Organizations like Hope for The Day are offering many online workshops to help. The Illinois Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is calling on family and friends to reach out to loved ones who are struggling.
"For those people who do deal with mental illnesses, this can add a lot of stress to the managing of their condition," said Tandra Rutledge, with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention-Illinois Chapter. "We want them to know we are here for them, folks are not alone."
Experts say it's vital for people with mental illnesses to stay on medication and pursue online therapy.
For others, depression and anxiety may be hard to avoid during this pandemic, especially being isolated. Dr. Judy Moskowitz, a psychologist with Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said setting a schedule and making a list each day is key.
"Two or three things that you can do," said Dr. Moskowitz. "And when you accomplish them and cross them off, it a hit of positive emotion that can help you stay engaged and avoid getting too down."
Besides setting a schedule, experts advise people to limit their COVID-19 news intake.
"Turn it off," said Dr. Moskowitz. "If you check on it once a day that is probably plenty, and if something really big happens, you're going to hear about it."
Reading books, preferably fiction, playing board games and reaching out to friends online are all ways to avoid slipping into depression. If you are suicidal, call 1-800-273-TALK.
Panic took over a man from Andhra Pradesh, India, who assumed he had contracted the deadly coronavirus and killed himself fearing he would also infect his family.
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Balakrishnayya, 50, had visited hospital for his heart ailment when doctors there advised him to wear a mask as he showed symptoms of cold. The man got anxious and quickly concluded he was infected with the novel coronavirus which has killed over 1,000 in China and infected over 40,000 people worldwide.
According to reports in NDTV, the man who hailed from a village Srikalahasti in Chitoor, feared he would infect his family and other villagers. He locked his family in the house and committed suicide by hanging himself from a tree. "He had gone to hospital for checkup regarding heart ailment. The doctors told him to use a mask and he misunderstood he was infected with coronavirus," the man's son said.
He also said that his father watched many videos about the coronavirus outbreak and assumed his symptoms were that of the deadly infection. "He (his father) wouldn't let any of us come near him. I told him you don't have infection but he wouldn't listen. May be, if he got proper counselling, he would have listened," the son added.
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Although there have been no cases of the novel coronavirus in Andhra Pradesh, the outbreak has caused panic after WHO declared it a global health emergency. In India, three people tested positive for coronavirus in Kerala and they are students who had returned from China's Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.
News broke just recently regarding a male official from South Korea’s Ministry of Justice committing suicide.
He had committed suicide from a bridge across the Han River.
According to Naver News, the man was an employee at the Office of Emergency Safety Planning which spearheads the national emergency and disaster management in South Korea.
South Korean In Charge of COVID-19 Commits Suicide; Unknown If It’s Due to WorkLest you’re unaware, the Office of Emergency Safety Planning is involved and in charge of containing the COVID-19 outbreak in South Korea.
According to Naver News, the man could be seen in CCTV footage driving his car before crashing into the railing of the Donjak Bridge.
Join our telegram channel for more entertaining and informative articles at https://t.me/goodyfeedsg or download the Goody Feed app here: https://goodyfeed.com/app/Shortly after, he is seen jumping from the bridge into the Han River. Unfortunately, he died at around 5am South Korean time or around 4am Singapore time.
Body Found Hours LaterThe search for his body took a few hours, and it was found at around 8am Singapore time by the Banpo rescue team.
Amidst all the speculations, we can’t be sure whether his reason for committing suicide was due to his work as there are no clear links at this time.
South Korea’s Ministry of Justice and the relevant authorities are currently looking into and investigating why the man committed suicide.
They will also be looking into whether his death was due to his work.
The finance minister of the German region of Hesse has died in an apparent suicide which the state governor suggested was linked to worries over the coronavirus pandemic.
Thomas Schaefer, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, was found on railway tracks at Hochheim, near Frankfurt, on Saturday.
Police and prosecutors said that the evidence, including witness statements and examination of the scene, led them to conclude the 54-year-old killed himself.
State governor Volker Bouffier said Schaefer had worked “literally day and night” to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.
“We have to assume that he was very worried,” said Mr Bouffier. “Above all, there are great concerns about whether it will be possible to meet the huge expectations of the population – especially financial aid.
“I have to assume that these concerns overwhelmed him. He obviously couldn’t find a way out. He was desperate and left us. His death is also a great loss for this country.”
Schaefer had been Hesse’s state finance minister for a decade and was seen as a potential candidate for the region’s next governor.
The Hesse CDU party said in a statement that it was in mourning, adding: “We heard with dismay the news of his sudden and unexpected death. Our thoughts are with his family and relatives.”
Germany has reported 455 deaths and more than 58,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 since the start of the outbreak.
Seven days ago the German chancellor went into quarantine after a doctor who gave her a vaccine tested positive for the virus.
The country has banned public meetings of more than two people and imposed tight border restrictions in an attempt to slow the spread of the outbreak.
Additional reporting by agencies
A 38-year-old Wilson Borough man who had become increasingly despondent over the COVID-19 pandemic and who had recently lost his job shot his longtime girlfriend then himself on Monday afternoon, police report.Roderick Bliss, of the unit block of North 17th Street, died at the scene and his death was ruled a suicide, Northampton County Coroner Zachary Lysek said. The 43-year-old woman suffered a gunshot wound to the back and is being treated in the intensive care unit at St. Luke’s University Hospital in Fountain Hill, police Chief Chris Meehan said. She is expected to survive, Meehan added.Police were called at 1:19 p.m. to 54 N. 17th St. for a report of shots fired with injuries, Meehan said. After locating Bliss’ body they recovered a semiautomatic pistol nearby, Meehan said. The woman was conscious and alert and was able to tell officers that Bliss shot her, Meehan said.On Tuesday, the woman, who police did not name, was able to speak to police in more detail. Officers interviewed others as well, Meehan said.“In the days prior to the shooting, Bliss had become increasingly upset over the COVID-19 pandemic," Meehan wrote about the disease caused by the coronavirus. "Minutes before the shooting Bliss was extremely upset about the pandemic and the fact that he had recently lost his job.“He went into the basement and came outside onto the rear porch with the victim. While holding the handgun, Bliss told the victim, ‘I already talked to God and I have to do this.’ The victim ran off the porch and he shot at her four times striking her once. Bliss then shot himself.”It wasn’t immediately clear if Bliss lost his job due to the economic downturn as communities sheltered in place as the pandemic took hold, Meehan said.Borough police were assisted by the coroner’s office, the borough fire department and Suburban EMS, Meehan said.
Stress, anxiety and depression are normal and expected now.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced that New York State plans to set up a free mental health service in which people can speak to mental health professionals about the emotional toll of the COVID-19 crisis.
Cuomo called on mental health professionals to consider donating their time to conduct free sessions over the phone or via video for patients in need of mental health counseling.
Mental health problems such as anxiety and depression are likely to spike among Americans in the coming weeks because of the uncertainty created by the pandemic.
COVID-19 has evoked fear in our lives in a way that hasn't been felt since the 9/11 terrorist attack. The sight of empty grocery store shelves, streets void of pedestrians, overflowing emergency rooms and thousands sequestered at home paints a picture of our new reality. Empty store shelves alone can be deeply distressing for many who fear that food supplies will run out, triggering all sorts of negative emotions.
Stress, anxiety and depression are normal and expected in the context of this pandemic. Experts, however, are particularly worried about people who are predisposed to depression and anxiety. The unique and unprecedented threat of COVID-19 has exacerbated anxiety, depression and potential for hysteria in our most vulnerable -- the mentally ill.
Psychologists describe fear as an expected response to a known threat, such as the seasonal flu, while anxiety is a response to a vague threat.
Dr. Alexander Sanchez, a psychiatrist working in New York City, told ABC News, “This is a new challenge and the most worrying aspect is the uncertainty."
At this time, nearly 7 million people in the U.S. are affected by generalized anxiety disorder and about 6 million with panic disorder. These numbers are expected to go up in the next few months.
“I expect an increase in anxiety and depressive symptoms to come when the experience of social distancing and isolation becomes more routine, Sanchez said. “We are trying to adjust to a new way of maintaining social connections virtually. There will be some psychic pain while we adjust."
When asked to pinpoint the primary root of anxiety, Dr. Armando Gonzalez, also known as Dr. Mondo, who a licensed marriage and family therapist practicing in Sacramento, California, told ABC News: “There's no doubt uncertainty is always the lynchpin to anxiety and panic."
He added, "In addition to panic around catching the virus or passing it on, the financial impact has become a cause for panic too."
Small businesses are struggling to stay afloat and many workers are not able to perform their jobs under current shelter-in-place orders. The mounting unknowns, mixed with the financial crisis that is sure to ensue, is at the root of a rise in anxiety, Mondo said.
Moreover, experts say obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) will also be on the rise.
Cleaning and washing compulsions are two features of OCD, which can easily be exacerbated by the threat of infection. Mental health professions in psychiatry, primary care and even dermatology should be alerted to potential issues in patients with OCD.
In addition, the current outbreak may exacerbate psychosis-like symptoms as well as lead to non-specific mental issues (e.g., mood and sleep disturbances, phobias and panic-like symptoms).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says anxiety and depression may worsen for people who are most susceptible to COVID-19, such as older individuals and those with chronic diseases.
“The elderly are more anxious because of their risk factors in regards to catching the virus," according to Mondo.
For other age groups, there's a level of heightened stress and uncertainty around when this might end and the financial impact it will have, Mondo noted.
As more people are asked to stay at home and self-quarantine, feelings of loneliness and isolation will be common. But experts say there are several strategies that may help people cope.
The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) recommends maintaining a sense of normality and routine that mirrors life’s daily patterns and practices. Structure and routine are helpful for people with mental health vulnerabilities, especially during times of uncertainty.
NAMI says to maintain a regular routine and keep up with morning rituals. Dressing in regular work attire and taking regular breaks are important. If working from home, NAMI encourages creating a structured, dedicated work environment and building in self-care as well as daily benchmarks of achievement.
“We are social creatures, we need each other. The creativity we have used to connect virtually is cause for hope, but at the end of the day, virtual meetings are still synthetic connection," said Mondo.
With the inevitable rise in mental health problems in the coming weeks, states are relying on tele-health to meet the mental health needs of the population.
“The health care world is working to expand tele-health at a breakneck pace to meet the needs of the community," said Sanchez. “It helps reduce the unnecessary use of personal protective equipment by health care workers and prevent the transmission of disease to patients in office waiting rooms or public transit."
The New York State Psychiatric Association is working with Gov. Cuomo to encourage participation in free tele-health services.
“We need to remember that this is temporary -- we have been challenged before and have met and exceeded those challenges as a society," said Sanchez.
Complete a survey at health.ny.gov/assistance for mental health services.
For mental health crisis, Call the NAMI HelpLine at 800-950-NAMI (6264) Monday through Friday, between 10:00 am and 6:00 pm EST for mental health resources.
Visit NAMI.org for additional information on how to seek mental health help.
If you are a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts in response to the outbreak, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Yalda Safai MD, MPH, is a psychiatry resident in New York City and contributor to ABC News Medical Unit.