Health Officials Say Lockdown Negatively Impacts Mental Health, Causes Suicide, Drug Overdoses

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Health Officials Say Lockdown Negatively Impacts Mental Health, Causes Suicide, Drug Overdoses. (Sasha Freemind/Unsplash)

By Michael Wing, The Epoch Times

Public health officials echoed sentiment that “the cure cannot be worse than the disease” during the Governors Briefing on COVID-19 at the White House on Tuesday. In particular, the mental health impacts of the lockdown were addressed head-on in the briefing before the president and the media.

Among those who spoke, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar stated that the correct mindset to have isn’t “balancing health versus the economy,” but rather, “balancing health versus health.”

He noted that as a result of lockdown measures and the virus-induced recession, by some estimates, the United States could see an extra 65,000 deaths as a result of suicide, drug overdose, and alcohol abuse in the years ahead.

Epoch Times Photo

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar takes questions from reporters in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House May 11, 2018, in Washington. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“Even more states are seeing a decline in the reporting of child maltreatment because kids aren’t at school,” he added, referring to increasing instances of domestic abuse as a result of the shutdown.

During the briefing, assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Dr. Ellie McCance-Katz also shared a critical perspective about the negative effects that social isolation can have on mental health.

“Containing the effects of Corona virus are critically important but so too is preventing suicide,” she said. “As a psychiatrist, I would argue that a life loss to suicide is just as important as a life loss to coronavirus.”

Also vitally important, she says, is “keeping a person from being terrified to ever leave their home.”

“The research literature is clear on the effects of quarantine and stay at home practices on mental health,” Dr. McCance-Katz adds. “We know that the longer the duration of these orders, the greater the intensity of the mental health problems experienced. We also know that these symptoms persist for years to come.”

She noted that her physician colleagues on the Coronavirus Task Force have carefully noted that “their perspective and advice centers on one aspect of the pandemic: virus containment.”

“However, even medically, it is not the sole perspective,” she adds.

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Dr. McCance-Katz’s words echoed Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s statement to lead task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci, that he should not be regarded as the “end all” and “the one person that gets to make a decision,” during a hearing last Tuesday, May 12.

“We can listen to your advice, but there are people on the other side saying there’s not going to be a surge and that we can safely open the economy, and the facts will bear this out,” he adds.

Among the ones who suffer most are poor and underprivileged kids without a parent able to teach them at home, Rand says.

As far as prospects of schools opening in the fall season of 2020 are concerned, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway told FOX News on Wednesday that each state, or even school district, will determine that with guidelines provided by the federal government.

“I think we have to weigh the benefit of the kids being in school to learn,” she adds. “Not everybody has a great digital connection … not everybody has 5G and internet access. That digital divide has been very real for many students. We replace their meals.

“[…W]e’ve got to also get them back to that social and academic structure that is so important to so many of these schoolchildren.”

During the Governors Briefing on Tuesday, Secretary Azar also spelled out the risks of increasing cancer cases as a result of the shutdown due to patients not getting diagnosed.

“Mammograms are down 87 percent. Colonoscopies are down 90 percent,” he said. “Approximately 1.7 million new cancer cases are diagnosed per year in our country. And if we’re seeing an 80 percent drop in cancer cases identified, we could already have 300,000 or more undiagnosed cancer cases as a result of this crisis.”

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