Some couples formed “suicide pacts”, killing themselves together amid the coronavirus pandemic, a case study by researchers in the UK and Bangladesh found.
The researchers said that the COVID-19 pandemic “appears to be leading to higher suicidality.”
They explained that the pandemic has affects people’s personal lives through its impact on their physical health, societal wellbeing and financial wellbeing, all of which have a “direct link to mental suffering” among some individuals.
“The reasons for COVID-19-related suicides are multi-faceted and include the fear of infection, money problems as a result of the financial and economic recession associated with national lockdowns, being harassed or victimized by others because individuals have (or are thought to have) COVID-19, and the stress of being in isolation or quarantine,” the researchers said.
They added that an especially worrying type of suicide cases is when couples form “suicide pacts,” and presented cases of 12 individuals from four countries, Bangladesh, India, Malaysia and the US.
Case 1: Murder-suicide by gunshot involving an American couple in their fifties in Illinois. The 54-year-old man, who suffered from severe breathing problems, shot his 59-year-old partner before killing himself.
“He was scared that he had been infected with COVID-19 from his girlfriend. Both had been tested for COVID-19 but it appears neither had received their results before their deaths. The autopsies showed that neither was infected with COVID-19.”
Case 2: An Indian elderly couple committed suicide together by ingesting a poisonous substance. Their suicide note said: “We are finishing our lives. No one is responsible for this. There has been a tension due to coronavirus. We both were also ill.”
The police said they were not actually infected with COVID-19.
Case 3: A Malaysian couple, man aged 65 and woman aged 55, attempted suicide by swallowing sleeping pills in an airport in India because they were not given seats on a coronavirus repatriation flight.
The airport officials told them their names were not on the list for the flight and “were dismayed by the responses from embassy officials.” The police managed to prevent their death.
Case 4: A young newlywed couple from India committed suicide together by hanging themselves from a tree.
The 24-year-old man was quarantined. “Although he had no COVID-19 symptoms, he was prevented from going home and his wife was being pressured and harassed by neighbors to leave the village because they all thought [her husband] had COVID-19.”
Case 5: A couple from Bangladesh committed suicide by hanging themselves in their house. The 30-year-old man and 24-year-old woman had a three-year-old child and the family was “fighting poverty exacerbated by the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 lockdown.”
Case 6: A 35-year-old man hung himself after his wife set herself on fire in India.
The couple “were unable to pay back a loan on a truck they had bought because they were unable to work during the COVID-19 lockdown.” The two argued about finances, after which the wife set herself on fire. Her husband tried to save her but she eventually died in the hospital. Then the husband hung himself.
They left behind two children, a seven-year-old and a 10-year-old.
The researchers said that issues related to the coronavirus pandemic such as restrictions on movement and economic hardships have led to psychological suffering including anger, fear, frustration, guilt, helplessness, loneliness, sadness and worry.
“For a small minority, this becomes so unbearable that suicide becomes the only option.”
The researchers called for implementing public mental health strategies as soon as possible to help prevent further suicides.