Some Pandemic Measures to Stop COVID-19 Deaths Increase Mental Illness and Deaths of Despair

Mental illness has increased due to multiple factors surrounding government and personal decisions during the last year

Eileen Davis
7 min readJan 15, 2021
Photo by Alex Boyd on Unsplash

My thoughts are somewhat scattered writing this. I have tried multiple times to write about the mental health crisis for myself and others, but I struggle to make it coherent since I am often overwhelmed when beginning.

I feel like this pandemic has hurt so many people mentally — more than we will know for years. We put the value on physical life — as in not dying from the coronavirus or other diseases — but some in the government and media and some regular Joes care less about those who are at increased risk of a “death of despair.” We don’t matter because we are not obvious to the world. Our deaths are recorded as something other than suicide. We are recorded as the man run over by a train or the “selfish” man who dared defend himself. We are another gun violence statistic quoted to deny us guns needed for our self-protection.

I understand that COVID-19 is a deadly disease for many. I don’t want my parents to get it. I don’t want people to live in fear of getting it. But it has spread because no human can stop nature. We can only take a few measures to mitigate the damage. Yes, masks and social distancing help. And living a healthier life would help too. But the pandemic has been used for the reason to deny people work and critical social interaction.

Talking with My Therapist about the Mental Health Impacts

I discuss many of my feelings with my therapist as I go through this. She has shared that the normal burnout people experience in late winter happened in October. Her office waitlist has increased exponentially. My son who was put on the top of that waitlist, waited three months to be seen. Current patients have also doubled their normal visits, including me who quadrupled my visits over the summer. She expresses how mental health professionals must deal with the anxiety of both clients wearing the mask and not wearing the mask, of clients’ fears when others wear or not wear a mask, those who lose loved ones to COVID-19, and those who lose loved ones to deaths of despair. They counsel those who have lost their jobs, lost social connection due to shutdowns and social distancing, and an overall sense of powerlessness. Truly, mental health professionals are left to deal with all the negative consequences.

The Mentally Ill Need Help Too

My opinion and so many other opinions on our personal mental health have been poo-pooed because we don’t fit the current narrative. The 11-year-old boy who died by suicide while attending virtual school doesn’t fit the agenda that children are adjusting to all-day online school. We are only worth listening to if it fits the majority opinion’s agenda. I am tired of being on the agenda when it is only about denying me access to firearms or increasing the federal budget. Our needs and lives matter as much as anyone else’s needs and lives. Yes, we disagree on the different approaches. Sometimes it feels like we have to fight harder to receive the help we need.

And what is the help we need IMO? Access to firearms to protect ourselves. Access to “nonessential” jobs. Access to therapy that isn’t so overrun due to the media and government (both parties) stoking our fear of physical death. Access to robust healthcare, but our healthcare has been crippled through government interference in the healthcare industry. Access to the money that we earn instead of withholding it in payroll taxes. If we want the money back, we have to wait until tax return time or navigate the impossible network of applying for disability. Access to housing, which property taxes threaten to take away. Physical access to friends and family (guess what? hugs increase happiness and immunity).

A Doctor, the Media, and Politicians Downplay Mental Illness

In the current environment, mentally ill people are treated like we don’t exist if we don’t fit a person’s narrative. It feels the only people being acknowledged as having a mental illness are those who fear themselves or loved ones dying of COVID-19. One local pediatrician posts regularly (and friends and family repost) that our anxiety is only temporary whereas those who experience COVID-19, die from it, or have a loved one die of it experience greater mental and physical health consequences. Are others who relapse into addiction, self-harm, or hurt others due to loneliness, joblessness, and homelessness only experiencing “temporary” anxiety? Are suicide and drug overdose deaths “temporary” anxiety?

Having that “temporary” anxiety mixed with bipolar 2 and PTSD, I know that my scars from suicide attempts are only “temporary.” And it would have only been “temporary” if I died (except my husband stopped me).

The media dishonestly covers the lockdown’s effect on mental illness because they downplay its effects. A one-sided article appeared that the Utah Suicide Prevention Commission claimed that those wearing a mask felt better mentally because they feel protected, yet failed to mention those who experience anxiety due to masks. They also stated that there was not an increase in suicides in Utah when we don’t know if there is a suicide increase until the CDC publishes the information in 2022. Personally, I lost trust in this commission because they won’t delve into the multi-faceted effect of the “stop the spread” campaign’s effect on the mentally ill.

If I have reservations about the Coalition’s opinion, it is because I read accident reports that I know are suicides or are most likely suicides. I also know that statistics in other countries show a different story. In Japan, suicide has increased by 83% for women and 22% for men in October 2020. Sixty-six more people have died from suicide than COVID-19 in Japan as of October. Both COVID-19 and mental illness are deadly. Neither should be downplayed.

Accusing Others of Murder Denies Physical and Mental Reality

On Veteran’s Day, the Deseret News ran a story on a WW2 vet who passed away from COVID-19 and old age. The story delves deeply into how the family claims people are so selfish for not obeying the pandemic rules. It is only the fault of “selfish” people that they couldn’t gather at his death bed and that he died. There was no mention that it is actually the nursing home and hospital policies restricting access to dying loved ones. And that this is all in place because of the VIRUS. It is no one’s fault. The family will understandably feel rage, but it isn’t appropriate for the news to publish that without any counterbalance in the article or another article. Instead, the stories of those who are suffering from psychological distress or dying deaths of despair are lost in the police/criminal section.

When a relative broke down emotionally via telephone last summer, she accused me and “Utahans” of murdering my parents. I told her no. It is COVID-19 or nature that kills. It is not me or other Utahans. I soothed her fears, but I didn’t express my pain to her. At that moment, she couldn’t handle it. Later I approached her about my pain. She thought it hadn’t affected me because I didn’t show the personal pain or loneliness. Conversely, she felt suicidal due to others mocking her for wearing a mask and concern for her health and our older relatives’ health. We both worried about losing our older relatives. Yet the pandemic measures also stopped this older couple’s home health care. In Spring 2020, one almost fell into a diabetic coma and another had a stroke. Thankfully, another relative lives near the older couple so he could check on them.

Heavy-handed Lockdown Measures Increase Potential for Riots

There are additional consequences to the lockdown. I believe the protests have more easily turned into riots because of the heavy-handed measures. George Floyd had lost his job due to the government shutdown when he was being arrested for paying with fake money. If he hadn’t lost his job (and a bad cop kneeling on him), would he be alive today? Some minorities lost their “nonessential” jobs. When the racial tension built, the jobless minorities joined in protests that sometimes turned into deadly riots.

Politicians make more laws to “slow the spread” that the police have to enforce. When we already have increased tension with police, why are we increasing the need for police? And why are these measures mostly for the people and not the politicians? Overall, this is bad for mental health.

My Personal Struggles

I don’t often share how often and how difficult my struggles have been through the pandemic. I have tried to kill myself many times from March 27 to January 14. Each time, my self-harm has escalated. I am lucky because I have a counselor, medication, a home, a husband with a job. Yet I still have been on the physical brink of death despite increased help. The times of self-harm have been affected by pandemic measures such as the closure of parks, a teacher bullying me about an obsessive level of cleanliness for several weeks, people on Facebook bullying me for stating others have a different opinion on masks, lack of social interaction, and the cost for increased mental illness care for myself and family. Other factors come into play, but my suicidality has been greater than the eight years previously.

We need to find a better balance to increase everyone’s mental health, instead of a small minority’s mental health, while taking reasonable measures to “slow the spread.”



Eileen Davis

I love language and believe every word is a poem. I majored in English language from BYU. I am a mom to four rambunctious boys. I have bipolar disorder too.