A TOP clinical psychologist has warned of an increase in suicide on the Costa del Sol due to the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Miguel Guerrero, who heads the Suicide Prevention Programme on the coast, said there must be a plan in place to prevent such an increase or to keep it as low as possible.

Guerrero told Malaga Hoy that a study will need to be carried out to determine if there has already been an increase in people taking their own lives, but predicted the risks will actually increase at a later date.

“An increase in suicidal behaviour is likely,” he said, “not now, not immediately due to the lockdown, but following the social, economic and health consequences of the pandemic.”

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PRESSURE: The socio-economic impact of COVID-19 and its lockdown could see a rise in suicide, warns expert

The expert called on health workers to be alert in looking for suicidal behaviours in the most at risk groups, particularly the elderly who are alone, people with illnesses or patients who have been left unemployed.

If certain behaviours are detected, they must be referred to mental health professionals, Guerrero said.

The health professional also appealed to the public to show solidarity with one another during this difficult time.

“Social support and cohesion are protective factors,” he said.

To anyone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts, Guerrero advises them to seek professional help via their GP.

There has reportedly been a slight increase in suicide attempts in ERs  throughout the pandemic and its ensuing lockdown. However this may be coincidental given that statistically there is often an increase in suicides during spring.

In fact Guerrero expects the numbers to remain low throughout the lockdown period.

“Now we can even expect a reduction because wars and pandemics increase social cohesion,” he said.

“That solidarity and that support makes people feel more protected.”

He cited Japan, which has seen a 20% decrease in suicides during its lockdown period.

Guerrero stressed there is ‘no single cause’ for someone taking their own life, adding that the stress or pressure of lockdown or the ensuing socio-economic consequences are simply ‘one more factor’ to add to several others.

Guerrero has pleaded with health authorities to invest in and provide mental health and suicide prevention resources.

Health experts also predicted an increase in suicides during the 2008 crisis, but studies later suggested there was no such surge.

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