International (MNN) — Higher rates of suicide seem to be an unintended consequence of the worldwide COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders.
Dean Vander Mey of Set Free Ministries says, “We’re experiencing calls. People are very anxious. They have a lot of fear. It’s troubling. This is unsettling everybody. When that happens, if you’re already a little bit edgy already or unstable, this puts a lot of people over the edge. There’s a lot of people calling, and I’m noticing some of the suicide hotlines, some are up 300%.”
During a stressful time like this, says Vander Mey, everyone’s risk of poor mental health goes up. “The lockdown is affecting people in ways that really can’t be determined. Because this is probably the biggest government intervention since World War II, globally.”
Vander Mey points to other anxious times like the Great Recession, when the US saw 10000 suicides per year above the average.
Vander Mey says the pressure from tough economic times can even affect people’s lifespans, with higher jobless rates often leading to more deaths. “That’s what happens when you have these types of things going on. The lockdown has lots of different effects on people. Not just suicide, but actually are our physical health and our mental health are all connected.”
How can Christians respond?
Vander Mey points to the example in the book of Acts, where they focused on each other, the apostles’ teaching, and providing for each other. “Keep focused on God’s work. [Acts] says that they fellowshipped. We can fellowship! Even if it’s not face to face, there can be lots of fellowship.” Churches need to keep in touch during this time, encouraging and caring for each other.
Vander Mey says these lockdowns won’t last forever, as new cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations drop in many areas. Meanwhile, the drug remdesivir, used unsuccessfully to treat Ebola in 2018, has recently proven effective against COVID-19 symptoms.
It might be tempting to hope for a return to economic prosperity, but Christians need to remember that another downturn could always come. We should not put our hope in wealth and prosperity but in our unity as the body of Christ and in the good news that Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again.
Lockdowns have negatively impacted the mental health of millions around the world. (Photo courtesy of Tumisu from Pixabay)