‘Deaths of despair’: Docs warn dire lockdown consequences, say suicides outpacing covid deaths in California

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Doctors are seeing higher levels of “despair” and an “unprecedented” spike in suicides as governors continue to keep coronavirus-related ‘stay-at-home’ orders in place, while states that have eased restrictions are seeing declines overall in death rates.

In an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, network health contributor Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center, said “lockdowns don’t work” after a virus has already spread throughout the country, as debate over whether and how quickly to reopen states continues.

“Lockdowns don’t work if there is already a lot of virus in the area, in the community, in the state, the country,” Siegel said.

The medical professor then referenced a “shocking” study released Wednesday by JP Morgan that found states and countries where lockdowns were put in place actually had higher rates of coronavirus cases than regions that remained open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“South Dakota, which was never locked down, has had almost no cases over the last several days,” Siegel said.

“In Hong Kong … they have a very ineffective government. You know why they have been able to do so well with only four deaths from COVID-19? Because the people behaved,” he continued. “They knew how to do social distancing. It wasn’t locking down. Locking down definitely doesn’t make the problem better … if there is already a lot of virus.”

The medical expert urged governors to quickly lift restrictions on movement and businesses and reopen their states to prevent more “deaths of despair.”

“You know what locking down does? Locking down destroys our health care system to the point where we have more heart attacks [in patients] that are not going to the hospital now,” he said. “More strokes that are not going to the hospital now. More cancer that is not being screened. People say they are afraid to go to the emergency room right now.”

He added: “Suicide, drug abuse, alcoholism, there are going to be more deaths of despair than from the virus itself.”

Siegel’s warning echos those of emergency room doctors at a hospital in California, who say they are seeing far more suicides than they are deaths from coronavirus under the state’s stay-at-home order.

In an interview with a local ABC affiliate, Dr. Mike deBoisblanc, chief of trauma at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, in the East Bay region of San Francisco Bay Area, said he’s seen a “year’s worth of suicide attempts in the last four weeks.”

“We’ve never seen numbers like this, in such a short period of time,” he said, adding that mental health suffering is so off-the-charts that he’s calling for an end to the lockdowns.

“Personally, I think it’s time,” deBoisblanc said. “I think, originally, this (the 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.”

Kacey Hansen, a trauma nurse who’s worked at John Muir Medical Center for more than three decades, also told the local ABC affiliate that suicides are at an unprecedented level.

National public health group Well Being Trust noted in a study this week that as many as 75,000 Americans could die from alcohol or drug misuse along with suicide as a result of the negative social and economic side effects of pandemic policies.

“Undeniably policymakers must place a large focus on mitigating the effects of COVID. However, if the country continues to ignore the collateral damage—specifically our nation’s mental health—we will not come out of this stronger,” warned Benjamin Miller, the group’s chief strategy officer.

Back in March, President Donald Trump warned that suicides would likely spike due to economic toll pandemic-related shutdowns would take on the country.

“You’re going to lose a number of people to the flu, but you’re going to lose more people by putting a country into a massive recession or depression,” the president said. “You’re gonna lose people. You’re gonna have suicides by the thousands.”

In another appearance, Trump added, “I’m talking about where people suffer massive depression, where people commit suicide, where tremendous death happens… I mean, definitely would be in far greater numbers than the numbers that we’re talking about with regard to the virus.”

In a March 24 tweet, the president noted, famously now, that the “cure can’t be worse than the problem.”


News outlets attempted to “fact-check” the president including ABC News, who found one ‘expert’ to refute Trump’s claims by stating that deaths go down during economic recessions.

“If you were to look across all the current causes of death in a recession, you would see that the number of deaths actually declines. Heart deaths from heart disease fall. Deaths from motor vehicle accidents crashes fall,” said Richard Dunn, associate professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of Connecticut.


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