Suicide risk for veterans could grow as coronavirus crisis winds down
May 22, 2020
Before March, about 15 percent of all VA mental health appointments were conducted over the phone or via video conferencing. Today that figure sits at 80 percent. Telephone appointments for those patients rose from about 170,000 a month before the pandemic to 768,000 in April alone.
Veterans’ isolation and stress from the coronavirus pandemic could increase their chances of suicidal thoughts, but health experts are warning that the worst impacts to their mental health could come after the immediate crisis is over.
An orthopedic technician takes a patient's swab sample during a screening for COVID-19 symptoms outside the Keesler Medical Center at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., on March 23, 2020. (Kemberly Groue/Air Force)
That’s because of long-term problems with personal finances, lingering health issues and misplaced expectations of mental health issues disappearing with a return to pre-crisis life.
“During the actual crisis, suicides can go down. It’s in the aftermath that it gets worse,” said Barbara Stanley, a research scientist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, during a press call sponsored by National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention on Thursday. “We expect to see fallout in terms of possible increases in suicide as a tail going forward.”
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