There have been 16 suicides in Queens between March 15 — at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis — and April 28, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
There were eight suicides in the borough from March 15 through April 28 last year, and 17 suicides going back to Jan. 1.
“There is a mental health component to this health crisis that needs our attention,” DA Melinda Katz said in a statement. “Since this pandemic began the number of suicides in Queens County have soared. The victims are young and old — no one is immune.”
Katz asked people to reach out to friends and neighbors, saying there is “no shame” in reaching out for help.
Bridget Collins, in-patient psychiatrist at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills-Northwell Health, said there was “radio silence” in terms of people reaching out during the first weeks of the crisis.
“I think there was a tendency, people were kind of limiting what they were going to call about,” she said.
Collins said people could be feeling trapped because of social distancing orders as well as being anxious about the health of loved ones. Other factors include unemployment, financial factors and people being confined in small spaces.
“People who may have been able to kind of give each other a little distance in their daily lives, might have had relationship issues or family issues, now everybody’s on top of each other,” Collins said, adding, “When you have a combination of existing stressors and then new stressors it can be really overwhelming for people.”
She saw some psychological effects of the pandemic on some patients.
“When people are in the hospital and they’re very sick, they get delirious, they get confused, they get upset,” Collins said. “They’re very uncomfortable.”
The fact that friends and family were banned from visiting also led to loneliness and isolation. Another situation occurs with someone who survived COVID but lost a loved one to the disease.
“It creates a lot of complicated feelings that people have gone through,” she said.
Collins wants people to know there is help available for people who are afraid it’s not there.
“There is somebody out there that wants to help them and will do everything possible to try and help them,” she said.
Collins recommends calling NYC Well at 1 (888) 692-9355. The free hotline is staffed by counselors around the clock who can talk, text, provide referrals for services and dispatch 911 in case of an emergency.
“Although our healthcare system in our country is far from perfect, New York is actually a pretty good state when it comes to availability of mental health,” she said.
People can also call 1 (800) 273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Line.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and Collins has this advice: “Always look for help is the thing I would say again and again and again.”