Social distancing and health restrictions have become the “new normal” in most parts of the world, including North Dakota, but a troubling trend is also appearing because of the pandemic — a rise in North Dakotans at risk for suicide.
“They’re stressed. They’re experiencing isolation. They’re experiencing real-life stressors that the COVID pandemic has caused,” said Alison Traynor, Assistant Director at Summit Counseling Services.
And because of those stressors, more people are at risk of dying from the social and economic impact of COVID-19 — specifically young adults and the elderly.
“They’re lonely and need to talk to someone and really have no one to connect with in the way that they’re used to,” said Traynor.
According to state figures, suicide is the ninth leading cause of death in North Dakota overall. Official numbers related to suicide and COVID-19 are not yet available. However, suicide prevention groups in the state say they’ve seen an increase in the number of calls from people suffering financial loss, personal stress and even greater social isolation because of the pandemic. So what’s their message for people who are struggling?
“You matter. Your life matters. Somebody out there is caring about you even though it doesn’t feel like it at the moment,” said Kora Dockter, Chairperson for North Dakota Suicide Prevention Coalition.
Finding concrete solutions won’t be easy, especially as the coronavirus pandemic drags on. So it’s important to take notice of those around you who may be struggling and look for the warning signs.
“The biggest sign we ask people to look for is a change in behavior,” said Dockter.
For example, someone who is depressed one minute and extremely happy the next, that’s a sign. But hope and help are really only a click away– online, by phone or even in person.
You can find more information on the Suicide Prevention Resource Center website.