Medical professionals stress importance of suicide prevention, awareness during holidays amid COVID-19 pandemic

Partnership aims to fight suicide
Partnership aims to fight suicide
Published: Nov. 24, 2020 at 10:48 AM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - There are thousands of Ohioans suffering in silence with depression and thoughts of suicide, and the holiday season and loneliness of the pandemic could only make things worse.

A new partnership with the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation and United Healthcare hopes to help those contemplating suicide.

When you consider the pandemic, and the loneliness of the holidays, that could make a troubling combination.

The partnership is aiming to give physicians the tools to help them recognize someone struggling before it’s too late.

“The pandemic has obviously added some isolation stressors, anxiety, and then when you add in things like the political climate, and some social issues. This is just something we’re really concerned about,” said Tony Coder, with The Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation.

Partnership aims to fight suicide

The numbers are startling: 1,836 Ohioans die by suicide each year. Men make up 78% of those cases.

Dr. Srinivas Merugu, chief medical officer and VP of Population Health for United Healthcare Ohio said, “We have every reason to believe those stressors are going to get worse with the holiday season. People are going to feel disconnected from their family. They can’t do their usual activities.”

Dr. Merugu worries this year things will only get worse over the upcoming holiday season adding to the loneliness of COVID isolation.

Dr. Merugu said about 45% of those who attempt or commit suicide had been seen in the past month by their primary care provider.

Now, United Healthcare and Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation are working together to create a toolkit for those providers to recognize the signs.

The Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation has a list of signs to watch out for on their website.

“Making sure we are having conversations, and that we’re able to not be nervous about it, talking about suicide is not going to make anybody thinking about suicide. Research shows it actually eases the burden on that individual,” said Coder.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call 800-273-8255, or text “4-HOPE” to 741-741.

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