Psychologists and medical professionals have long understood the toll that social isolation can take on our emotions. Many have expressed concern that lockdowns and school closures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a spike in anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems—some of which may last for years after the period of isolation ends.
Recently, several studies have documented the severity of the COVID-related mental health crisis in the U.S. In June, the researchers from Harvard, Northeastern, Rutgers, and Northwestern universities reported that 27 percent of respondents described symptoms of moderate to severe depression—more than 3 times the rate of about 8 percent ordinarily found in large U.S. surveys. A subsequent report, focusing on depression among young adults, found that nearly half (47.3 percent) of 18 to 24 year-olds described moderate to severe depressive symptoms during the month of October. In the same month, nearly 37 percent of young adults reported thoughts of suicide.
In a different study, published recently by the CDC, nearly 26 percent of 18-24 year-olds surveyed reported serious thoughts of suicide.
Americans are not the only ones suffering from anxiety and depression as a result of the pandemic and the accompanying lockdowns. CBSNews reports that suicide claimed more lives in Japan in one month than COVID claimed in 10. According to the report:
Far more Japanese people are dying of suicide, likely exacerbated by the economic and social repercussions of the pandemic, than of the COVID-19 disease itself. While Japan has managed its coronavirus epidemic far better than many nations, keeping deaths below 2,000 nationwide, provisional statistics from the National Police Agency show suicides surged to 2,153 in October alone, marking the fourth straight month of increase.
CBS reports that, so far this year, more than 17,000 people have taken their own lives in Japan.
A separate CBSNews piece urges the world to look to Japan as a cautionary tale:
While draconian COVID lockdowns have been blamed for increasing suicidal ideation in other countries, Japan’s antivirus restrictions have been comparatively lenient, with the government relying instead on voluntary compliance, without penalties.
The piece concludes with a warning from Professor Michiko Ueda of Tokyo’s Waseda University:
‘[I]f the impact of the pandemic is much milder and still we see this huge effect in suicides, this can happen anywhere.’