Shelter in Place Orders Cause Skyrocketing Numbers in Those Dealing with Mental Illness and Abuse

Lindsey Lewis, Staff Writer

The COVID-19 pandemic and measures taken to slow the spread are negatively impacting the general public’s mental health, and increasing worries for people already suffering from mental illness. This crisis also reduced community interaction and heightened stress levels, which are factors that can worsen domestic abuse. With many schools shut down, children are no longer having regular contact with abuse reporters and cases are going unnoticed. 

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted Mar. 25-30, “More than four in ten adults overall (45 percent) feel that worry and stress related to Coronavirus has had a negative impact on their mental health, up from 32 percent in early March.” Measures taken to slow the spread of the virus, such as social distancing, business and school closures, and shelter-in-place orders, are likely to cause feelings of anxiety and isolation, which can lead to a deterioration in mental health. “It’s been a hard adjustment to being in quarantine because I had to get used to doing online school, not seeing my friends, and being stuck at home,” junior Henriette Schmuck said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, different ways to cope with stress are to, “Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, take care of your body, make time to unwind, and connect with others.” They also recommend checking in with your loved ones, especially those at higher risk, via telephone or email. “To de-stress I like to FaceTime all of my friends and go on hikes to get out of the house,” junior Emily Bakshi said.

Many experts and suicide prevention groups worry that the pandemic could trigger an increased number of suicide attempts. However, they are refraining from discussing the effects of the pandemic on suicide rates because it is preventable. An excessive amount of reporting on this issue could potentially cause an increase in the number of suicide attempts. 

May 8, Well Being Trust and The Robert Graham Center American Academy of Family Physicians released Projected Deaths of Despair from COVID-19, a projection and prevention report for suicides from COVID-19. They reported that, “The additional deaths of despair range from 27,644 (quick recovery, smallest impact of unemployment on deaths of despair) to 154,037 (slow recovery, greatest impact of unemployment on deaths of despair).” However, they urge these rates are only predictions and deaths can be avoided by taking preventive actions as a nation.

Many children are at risk of abuse during the pandemic due to family stress and disconnection from support services. Stay-at-home orders are causing children to have no contact with mandated reporters such as teachers and social/health-care workers.

 “Reports of child abuse and neglect have declined since shelter-in-place effect,” the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Contra Costa County reported. In April, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department documented 662 reports in the first week, compared with 1,352 in 2019. 

However, experts don’t believe that means there are less cases; they are just going unnoticed. The council advises teachers, counselors and others to continue to check in regularly with children and report any reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect.

People concerned about these issues can call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). In addition, the Miramonte Wellness Center is still available to support students via Zoom.