GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Original publish date: April 27, 2020)
EDITOR’S NOTE: Report numbers updated June 13, 2020
Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services released a report today that contends Michigan will experience a mental health crisis as a result of the aftershocks of COVID-19 and predicts a 15 to 32% increase in statewide suicide rates unless we act now.
Authors offer a range of concrete solutions to address the risks and call on Michigan healthcare providers, public health officers, policy makers, funders, payers and the public to take immediate action.
“The COVID-19 crisis will have a profound impact on the mental health of Michiganders,” said Mark Eastburg, Ph.D., president and CEO of Pine Rest, and one of seven authors of the report. “Due to the swift emergence of the disease and its sweeping impact on our lives and economy, we’re experiencing a rise in many of the stressors that are known to increase risk for suicide.”
The report contends that research into previous epidemics, including the 2003 SARS outbreak in Asia, gives us evidence-based warnings about what could happen in Michigan. An analysis of the post-SARS findings – combined with data on the impact that factors such as isolation, unemployment and economic distress, increased substance use, physical health problems and increased access to guns have on suicide rates – point to the predicted 32% increase.
Research suggests that certain groups are at especially high risk, including healthcare providers, surviving caregivers, children and adolescents, older adults, people with pre-existing mental illness, the LGBTQ community and those with autism spectrum disorder.
Fortunately, the SARS research also suggests strategies on how our state can effectively prepare for, and mitigate, the risks.
“We can and must take immediate steps to improve access to care through awareness, affordability, telehealth technology and workforce development,” said Eastburg. “We also need to work
with policy makers and the healthcare community to fix gaps in critical behavioral health infrastructure.”
The first call to action is to the public.
“People experiencing mental health issues or suicidal thoughts should not wait to seek help. They should contact their primary care physician, call the suicide hotline or Pine Rest at 800-678-5500,” said Eastburg. “Help is available.”
The confidential National Suicide Prevention Hotline is free and available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
The report also calls for a comprehensive approach to increase access to care, including scaling up teletherapy and telepsychiatry, informing Michiganders and referral sources about the availability of these care options and how to find them, and maintaining financial incentives such as waivers for co-pays for these services. The report further points out that current healthcare service tracking infrastructure could be quickly retooled to serve as a statewide behavioral health clearinghouse for people seeking these services.
“Shortages in mental health services and providers – particularly in rural Michigan – continue to restrict access to care,” Eastburg points out. “We can increase access by ramping up and reimbursing for teletherapy and telepsychiatry services and by employing readily-available training programs to retrain existing providers and even displaced workers to fill entry level positions in the mental health field.”
Eastburg has shared the report directly with several colleagues and partners in public health and healthcare throughout the state, and his team will continue this outreach in an effort to build awareness and prompt action.
Eastburg co-authored the report with Pine Rest colleagues Mariah DeYoung, L.M.S.W., C.A.A.D.C. substance use director, Outpatient and Recovery Services; Evonne Edwards, Ph.D., clinical director, Outpatient and Recovery Services; Scott Halstead, Ph.D., vice president, Outpatient and Recovery Services; Amy Mancuso, L.M.S.W., Pine Rest Foundation grants manager; Heide Rollings, M.D., program director, Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship; Child, Adolescent & Adult Psychiatrist, Board Certified and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry, Michigan State University; and Amy VanDenToorn, L.M.S.W., Campus Clinic manager.
The full report can be found at pinerest.org/COVID19-report.
IN THE NEWS
- Without treatment, mental health experts fear long-term damages from COVID-19, MiBiz (April 26, 2020)
- ‘Aftershocks’ of coronavirus could bring increase in suicides, Pine Rest report warns, Mlive (April 27, 2020)
- Michigan study warns of suicide spike amid COVID-19, Detroit News (April 27, 2020)
- Report: Michigan suicides will rise 32% amid pandemic, WZZM13 (April 28, 2020)
- Suicide numbers could rise by 32%, FOX17 (April 28, 2020)
- Preparing Michigan for the behavioral health impact of COVID-19, WOOD Radio (April 28, 2020)
- Study predicts increase in suicide rates among COVID-19 frontline workers, WILX (April 28, 2020)
- Study predicts 32% increase n suicides in Michigan tied to COVID-19 pandemic, NBC 25 News (April 28, 2020)
- Pine Rest releaes COVID-19 suicide impact report, WLNS (April 28, 2020)
- Mental Health Group Issues Report On Suicide Rate During Pandemic, NewsTalk 94.9 WSJM (April 28, 2020)
- Michigan could see a 32% increase in suicides following COVID-19 crisis, Michigan Radio (April 29, 2020)
- Report shows COVID-19 pandemic could spark 32% increase in statewide suicides, UpNorthLive (April 30, 2020)
- Shelley Irwin interview with Evonne Edwards regarding Michigan Mental Health crisis due to COVID-19, WGVU News (May 1, 2020)
- Suicide rates could increase by 32 percent due to COVID-19; here’s how to seek help, LoudWire (May 1, 2020)
- State of Mind: Study shows Michigan suicides could increase by 32% due to COVID-19, WWMT News Channel 3 (May 4 2020)
- Mental health professionals fear increased risk of suicide amid COVID-19 pandemic, 11 KTVA (May 4, 2020)
- Preparing For An Increase of Suicides In Michigan, Be Nice (May 5, 2020)
- With higher suicide risk during coronavirus, Michigan makes plans to help, Bridge Magazine (May 5, 2020)
- Mental health study suggests pandemic could increase statewide suicide rate 32%, WGVU Public Media (May 5, 2020)
- Michigan Suicide Risks Rise At This Unstable Time, Experts Warn, Deadline Detroit (May 6 2020)
- Pine Rest predicts 32% increase in statewide suicide rates tied to pandemic, WZZM Alive & Well (May 6, 2020)
- Experts warn of possible mental health ‘aftershock’ from COVID-19, MiBiz (May 10, 2020)
- Pine Rest: COVID-19 will have lasting impact on mental health, GRBJ (May 15, 2020)
- COVID-19 crisis brings higher suicide risk for Michigan, Detroit News (May 27, 2020)
- Is a Mental Health Crisis on the Horizon? Factors Related to COVID-19 Make it Likely, MI Blues Perspectives (June 11, 2020)
- Researchers Predict Sharp Uptick in Mental Health Issues; Explain How to Get Help, 9&10 News (July 2, 2020)
- Calls to suicide hotlines rise during COVID-19 pandemic, WWMT News Channel 3 (July 17, 2020)
- Report Looks at Possible Mental Health Effects of Pandemic, 94.9 WSJM (July 21, 2020)
- Three-Digit Number for the U.S. Suicide Prevention Hotline Coming in 2022, MedTruth (July 23, 2020)
- Opioid abuse surges in Michigan amid misery from the coronavirus, Bridge (July 27, 2020)
- Michigan sees an increase in opioid abuse as a result of coronavirus-related despair, Metro Times (July 28, 2020)
- Opinion: We must combat Michigan’s suicide epidemic, The Detroit News (September 27, 2020)