Patients with long Covid are becoming increasingly depressed – and even suicidal – due to a lack of support and care, experts and campaign groups have warned.
Research has shown that anxiety and depression are much more common among people with persistent coronavirus symptoms than among the general public, while surveys indicate an increase in suicidal thoughts among patients.
Long Covid symptoms are affecting the daily lives of 1.4 million people, the Office for National Statistics estimates, with 398,000 reporting their ability to engage in normal activities was “severely reduced”.
And an informal survey of 185 people conducted last month by Survivor Corps, a US-based support group, found 46 percent had long-standing thoughts of suicide related to Covid — up from 18 percent when the same survey was conducted last year.
LatestPageNews knows of patients who have considered euthanasia only to later change their minds, while others say they had plans to kill themselves as a result of long Covid which has made it difficult to live the lives they once had .
Mental health charity Mind said it had received inquiries through its hotline from long-term Covid patients who “spoke to us about their fears about recovery or when the next symptom could affect them”.
dr David Strain, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School who conducts long-term research on the condition, said the number of people who are “despondent” because of their experience with long Covid is “rising and rising”.
He said he expected the risk of suicide among the most severely ill patients to be “significantly higher” than in the general population, adding that among the worst affected, due to the slow progress being made in better understanding and treatment, a feeling of “helplessness” has existed for a long time Covid.
Kerry McLeod, Mind’s head of information content, said some of the patients who reached out to the charity “shared how their fatigue was affecting their ability to go about their daily lives, leading to them feeling down and felt lonely”.
A study published this week showed that out of 155 participants, one in five developed moderate to severe depression over the course of a year, while nearly three-quarters had been drinking.
The research, conducted at Mater Hospital’s long Covid clinic, found that patients with no prior history of depression or anxiety prior to Covid-19 now present with neurological disorders.
Antony Loveless from Southend in Essex told LatestPageNews that he and his partner Claire Hooper hatched a plan to kill themselves after both had long been ill with Covid early last year.
The couple suffered from various gastrointestinal, neurological and respiratory symptoms – at the peak of their illness they could only get out of bed for a few hours each day due to severe fatigue – but were repeatedly dismissed by GPs, social care services and doctors.
After losing their jobs as NHS nurse and senior accident investigator at Gateway Port, the two told each other they wanted to end their lives. “Everything changed literally overnight,” said Mr. Loveless, a former war correspondent. “Our income is gone. We were both very active, we would walk the dog before going to work. Worked 10-12 hours every day. That was all.
“One night Claire said to me, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’ I told her I’d had enough, I couldn’t do it anymore. ‘I want to die’. In a way, it took all the burden off our shoulders. We had a plan to kill ourselves,” Mr Loveless said.
It was only when the couple realized that doing so “would destroy our children’s lives” did they decide to move on. Their situation also improved after they were granted disability benefits due to their conditions and although they are long suffering from Covid their suicidal thoughts are now over.
Lucy from London told LatestPageNews She never had suicidal thoughts until the summer of 2020 when she developed long-term gastrointestinal problems and an abnormal heart rhythm after contracting Covid.
“I had plans to kill myself and how to do it because I just wanted to stop the pain and couldn’t say how I would get better. Luckily I got support from the Listening Place [a mental health charity] and since January the suicidal thoughts have disappeared.”
Earlier this year an investigation found that a young man who had trained as a paramedic at Oxford University ended his life after a long battle with Covid.
Abhijeet Tavare, 27, contracted Covid in September 2020, from which he initially recovered only for long-term symptoms to emerge. The Hertford inquest was told he had suffered from palpitations, trouble sleeping, extreme fatigue and cognitive decline caused by brain fog.
Given the ongoing research, Dr. Strain said it was unclear whether the prevalence of depression and suicidal thoughts in long Covid patients was “reactive” or the result of neurological changes. “People could get depressed because they lost the ability to play football with their kids. They’ve lost the ability to go to work and do the things that make them,” he said.
“Or was there a real neurochemical change in the brain? People get brain fog, which just means the neurons aren’t firing as fast as they should. It can also affect our ability to stabilize our mood and respond appropriately to various stimuli.”
He said long Covid had many similarities to chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). The condition increases the risk of suicide in patients by almost seven times, research has shown.
Ondine Sherwood, a spokeswoman for the Long Covid SOS charity, said the subset of patients “of greatest concern” are the 398,000 who are effectively disabled and unable to carry out everyday activities.
The NHS has set up a network of long-running Covid clinics, but the latest data shows that between March 14 and April 10 just 5,818 patients in England received “specialist assessments” at these centres.
“There is not enough investment and there is too much disparity between centers,” Ms Sherwood said. “It’s been said over and over again, but unless we get the money to do better research and long-term treatment for Covid, this health crisis is going to grow and grow – to the detriment of people’s mental health.”
If you suffer from stress and isolation or find it difficult to cope, The Samaritans offers support; You can speak to someone free of charge and confidentially on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Samaritans website for details of your nearest branch.