Page 7 - RU RWJ Medicine Magazine • Winter 2021
P. 7

Staying Ahead
How Our
Experts Are
Addressing the
Impact on
Mental Health
and Risk for
of the Curve
of every day in the United States, someone attempts suicide. Every 11 minutes, an individual dies from suicide.
These most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—an estimated 1.4 million suicide attempts and 48,344 deaths by suicide annually in 2018—represented the latest in an ongoing trend of significant increases in the suicide rate in the United States, a public health crisis affecting all ages and demographics.
And then came the COVID-19 pandemic.
By Beth-Ann Kerber
The pandemic’s negative impact on individuals’ mental and behavioral health has already been seen, and industry professionals expect a continued increase in a variety of mental and behavioral health issues, including risk for and incidence of suicide. At Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, the Department of Psychiatry is looking at ways to proactively address the problem and avert a crisis.
A new web survey by the CDC among U.S. adults shows the concerns are warranted. The survey, released August 20, 2020, revealed the incidence of people seriously considering suicide in the prior 30 days—approximately 11 percent of respondents—almost doubled over the previous year. For essential workers, that figure jumps to 21.7 percent.
Overall, 40.9 percent of respondents reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition, including symptoms of an anxiety disorder or a depressive disorder (30.9 percent), symptoms of a trauma- and stressor- related disorder related to the pandemic (26.3 percent), and having started or increased substance use to cope with stress or emotions related to COVID-19 (13.3 percent).
Citing the “phases of disaster” chart adapted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Anthony Tobia, MD, professor and interim chair, Department of Psychiatry, cautions that we can expect a more significant impact on clinicians’ mental health as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll.
Robert Wood Johnson | MEDICINE 5

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