As we continue to learn more about long Covid and the debilitating effects it’s had on millions of Americans, scientists are growing concerned with an often overlooked consequence: its link to suicide.
Just last year in a Long Covid support group, Survivor Corps, founder Diana Berrent asked her members if they’d ever had thoughts of suicide since developing Long Covid. Roughly 18% of the group who responded said yes. That’s more than 4x higher than the 4% of the U.S. adult population that has experienced recent suicidal thoughts.
Experts say that understanding the link between Long Covid and suicide is very complex. While some individuals who have had the virus develop symptoms of depression and anxiety after their diagnosis, others suffer from physical symptoms with psychological effects that are often mistaken for mental health issues. To make this worse, Long Covid patients often report being misdiagnosed by doctors or prescribed medications they don’t need.
Between enduring months of side effects that include constant pain, fatigue, anxiety, or depression and not getting adequate care from the healthcare industry, those suffering from Long Covid have seen their health and well being deteriorate without receiving the help they need.
Dr. Wes Ely, at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, who treats Long Covid patients, stated that, “We’ve been collecting brains of some patients who didn’t survive long Covid. We’re seeing inflammation and ongoing cellular abnormalities in these brains.” These abnormalities in the brain have serious effects, such as suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
Berrent believes there is an absolute need for a dedicated suicide hotline for people suffering from Long Covid to provide them with hope and relief since there are not many that understand the full scope of the condition.