Mental Health

Suicide Prevention in the Time of COVID-19


If you are at risk for suicide now, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, message Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, or call 911.

September is Suicide Prevention Month. 

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. It’s a complicated public health problem that has only increased in the past decade. Suicide is preventable, and we all have a role in educating ourselves. Talking about suicide and its prevention is necessary, both for people who have thoughts about suicide and for the members of their support systems. From educating yourself, to raising awareness, to simply starting a conversation with a loved one, there are many ways you can make a difference during Suicide Prevention Month and throughout the year.

Coronavirus makes mental health even harder to maintain.

The year 2020 has been unlike any other, especially when it comes to mental health. The coronavirus pandemic has brought with it an unprecedented rise in stress and anxiety. Increased stress levels can make mental health symptoms, such as suicidal thoughts, more difficult to manage. This can be due to a number of different reasons:

  • Uncertainty is distressing. It’s been 6 months since the pandemic began, but there is still a lot we don’t know – like how long it will last. 
  • Many people have experienced significant loss during the pandemic, including the loss of loved ones to the virus, unemployment, isolation and social distance, and loss of significant life events. Loss is often the catalyst for feelings of grief and sadness.
  • Shifting your everyday routine is mentally exhausting. It takes a lot of energy to stay vigilant and aware of what’s going on, change your habits, remember to wear a mask in public, not touch your face, and maintain a safe physical distance. This new demand for constant alertness can quickly lead to fatigue. 
  • A lot of the common and healthy coping skills we use, especially the social ones, are not available in their typical format. Many forms of treatment, like traditional therapy, are also not available in the ways that we are used to.
  • Relationships can start to feel strained from the increase in time spent inside with family and less time with others. Pandemic stress has taken its toll on parents in particular as they adjust to having children home more often and managing a new family routine.

Steps to move toward recovery and away from suicide

  • If you are having thoughts of suicide, please talk about it! Speak to your therapist, use the suicide hotline, or talk to a family member or trusted friend. 
  • Remember that you are not alone, and that you can get through with help and support. Try peer support programs to meet others who are working on recovery in mental illness, such as NAMI and On Our Own
  • While traditional therapy may not be as available as before, teletherapy has emerged as an option for bridging the gap between providers and patients for both ‘talk’ therapy and medication management from a licensed provider. Virtual telehealth appointments offer flexibility for receiving quality care from a distance.
  • When facing higher levels of stress, fine-tune your coping skills rather than putting them off.
    • Stay in touch with your doctors. Be consistent with your therapy and medications to keep moving toward recovery.
    • Stay on top of your personal hygiene, healthy eating, balanced sleep, and other ways of taking care of your body. Prioritizing these everyday activities will help you manage a higher level of stress.
    • Be kind in what you say to yourself! 
    • If you’re not in therapy and haven’t been feeling like yourself during the pandemic, it could be a good time to start seeing a counselor. Reach out to find the right therapy for you. 
  • It’s important to stay informed, but overconsumption of news can cause you even more stress. Find a news source that works for you to stay informed. When you’ve watched enough, turn it off and do something soothing. 
  • Think creatively about ways to engage in the things that you love. Try joining a Zoom group for a hobby or a physically distant activity rather than waiting until the pandemic is over. 

Helping a loved one who may have thoughts about suicide

Are you concerned about a friend or family member who is having thoughts of suicide? The National Suicide Lifeline and its partners recommend 5 steps if you know someone at risk for suicide. Visit #bethe1to for more information.

Educate yourself

Throughout the month of September, Sheppard Pratt is hosting a variety of educational events and resources to raise awareness about suicide prevention and mental health. Take part in the #48000steps community challenge or tune into our Facebook Live series on suicide and its relation to eating disorders, veterans, and youth. 


More Resources


  • Rachel Smolowitz, PhD

    Program Manager, Sheppard Pratt Integrated Behavioral Health at GBMC
    Co-Occurring Disorders, LGBTQ+ Mental Health Issues, Motivational Interviewing, Program Development, Psychotherapy, Smoking Cessation