A Message from AFSP’s Chief Medical Officer

March 26, 2020 – The COVID-19 crisis, the associated practice of social distancing, and its impact on other societal/economic factors has significant implications for the mental health of all those who are impacted. Dr. Christine Moutier, Chief Medical Officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, released the following statement:

“Factors associated with the COVID-19 crisis such as anxiety, social isolation, fears related to the virus itself, economic stress, and disruption in routines can potentially impact our mental health, and be a contributing factor for suicide risk. Suicide is complex and driven by multiple risk factors – it is not a singularly driven event. Based on the research available today, it is not a foregone conclusion that the COVID-19 crisis will impact suicide.

While factors associated with COVID-19 create risk, it is imperative to remember that suicide is preventable.  It is more important than ever that people take protective, proactive measures to safeguard their mental health and that of others. From research, we know that protecting mental health enhances physical health and immunity as well. People should focus on steps that are within their control:  stay connected with their communities, actively manage their mental health, don’t be afraid to have a frank conversation if you or someone you love is struggling, and seek professional help if needed. People with mental health conditions need to stay in regular contact with their provider and, given the recent removal of regulatory barriers, now have more opportunity than ever to do so via tele-health solutions.

We are amid an unprecedented public health crisis, yet we also have an extraordinary opportunity to come together within our families and our communities to reduce the stigma that often surrounds mental health. Never before have we met a public health crisis with such a clear focus on mental health, and never before have we had the advantage of the many telehealth options, mindfulness apps, and technology to facilitate face-to-face connection from afar that are currently available to us.

We must use these tools to our advantage and remain vigilant to protect our own mental health and support loved ones. I encourage everyone to engage in an open, honest dialogue with their friends and loved ones, to demonstrate compassion and kindness, and to practice self-care by exercising, meditating, and consuming the news in measured doses. And, reach out to those who may be isolated and need the extra support. These actions can save lives and positively change our collective culture surrounding mental health for the long-term.”

Find more information about mental health and COVID-19.

Discover guidelines on how to report safely on suicide.

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