Is it possible—or even likely—that the suicides of two senior cadets at the Air Force Academy are attributable to the stress the students may have been under as a result of the coronavirus pandemic?
Closer to home, during the last two weeks at least twelve people have died by suicide in East Tennessee in what officials have described as an unusual spike in the number of self-inflicted deaths. The uptick is being attributed at least in part to the mental, emotional and even physical turmoil being created by the approximately three-week-old pandemic.
How many other Americans have—or possibly will—take their lives as a result of challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic? This is a difficult question to answer since it’s difficult to determine whether the coronavirus itself is indeed the primary reason behind an individual’s decision to take his or her life. Nevertheless, in addition to the situation in East Tennessee, there have almost certainly been a number of other coronavirus-related suicides over the past several weeks, about which we know little, And unfortunately it’s highly likely that there will be even more during the difficult days, weeks, and possibly months, ahead.
After all, the coronavirus pandemic nowithstanding, the suicide rate in the United States has been steadily rising over the past couple of decades to the point where today it stands as the tenth leading cause of death across virtually all age groups.
Was a possible increase in the number of suicides specifically related to the coronavirus one of the likely outcomes President Trump was referring to when he began talking and tweeting rather ominously about the “cure” being worse than the problem?
Last week, Trump repeatedly warned that the country is likely to experience an increase in the number of suicides as a result not only of illness from the coronavirus but also as a result of increased social isolation created by the states’ stay at home orders, along with the severe damage that’s already been—and continues to be—inflicted on the American economy.
“You’re going to have suicides by the thousands” if the economy doesn’t improve, Trump maintained last week during a virtual town hall on Fox News.
Unfortunately, the president’s words, which he repeated on more than one occasion last week, sounded less like an expression of concern for the American people and more like a not-so-subtly veiled threat directed at his own public health advisers, who nevertheless eventually managed to persuade the president to abandon his “aspirational” hope of lifting the current social distancing measures by April 12, a date that is, in fact, perilously close to April 15, the date when the total number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. is set to peak.
Meanwhile, there are those who argue that predictions such as Trump’s about there being an increase in the number of suicides fail to take into the account the complexity that inevitably surrounds each and every act of suicide. Indeed, for many years experts have routinely insisted that there are a number of factors, which might or might not include joblessness and poverty, that almost certainly play a role in a person’s decision to take his or her life.