The number of suicides documented by a hospital in Northern California during the ongoing lockdown has exceeded the number of Chinese coronavirus deaths, doctors in the city of Walnut Creek revealed this week as they called for an end to the region’s lockdown order.
In an interview with the Los Angeles-based ABC7 news outlet aired on Thursday, doctors from the John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek stressed that there had been an unprecedented rise in suicides, noting that there have been more attempts over the last month than in most full years.
“We’ve never seen numbers like this, in such a short period of time,” Dr. Mike DeBoisblanc, the head of trauma at the Walnut Creek hospital, told the local ABC outlet. “I mean, we’ve seen a year’s worth of suicide attempts in the last four weeks.”
“What I have seen recently, I have never seen before,” Kacey Hansen, a trauma nurse at the medical center for over three decades, added. “I have never seen so much intentional injury.”
“Social isolation has a price and I know why we’ve done it,” she also said. “It just has a bigger price tag than I thought.”
Hansen reportedly noted that the Walnut Creek hospital is unable to save as many patients as usual due to a near single-minded focus on coronavirus.
Other doctors, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins, have acknowledged that there is a clear and present danger that lockdown measures may fuel mental health issues like suicide.
Lockdowns have “not been necessary to save lives but instead inflicted devastating harm on tens of millions of people,” hundreds of doctors wrote in a letter to the White House.
Contra Costa County’s Walnut Creek is in the eastern region of the San Francisco Bay area.
Dr. DeBoisblanc and Tom Tamura, the executive director of the Contra Costa County Crisis Center, noted that most of the suicides involve young adults who are “worried about the stress that isolation and job loss can bring as this quarantine continues.”
In a statement to ABC7 responding to the trauma team’s concerns about the rise in suicides amid the lockdowns, the county’s crisis center proclaimed:
We strongly encourage everyone in distress to seek help from mental health professionals and local resources such as 211 (the Crisis Center).
We understand that this is a very difficult time for many people, and it can feel very isolating to practice social distancing. We want to stress that the shelter-in-place order is saving lives at the same time.
Noting that the region’s shutdown order is having a devastating impact on mental health, Dr. DeBoisblanc declared:
Personally, I think it’s time. I think, originally, this [shelter-in-place order] was put in place to flatten the curve and to make sure hospitals have the resources to take care of COVID patients.We have the current resources to do that and our other community health is suffering.
Nevertheless, the John Muir Medical Center stressed that it is supportive of the shelter-in-place order in the Bay Area, saying in a statement to ABC7:
We realize there are a number of opinions on this topic, including within our medical staff, and John Muir Health encourages our physicians and staff to participate constructively in these discussions. We all share a concern for the health of our community, whether that is COVID-19, mental health, intentional violence, or other issues.
The shelter-in-place order in the region will expire by May 31. Every state in America has begun a phased reopening process as conditions across the country improve, particularly a drop in COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases.