This new series called COVID is intriguing. I’m on episode 19!
This is an excerpt from a conversation in the ‘after-world’ where two forefathers are fighting over the remote control. There are many conspiracy theories that point to how life after death is. Some claim it is a garden full of flowers and patchy grass, others say it is like hitting an alarm clock snooze button or reading a book. However, from my future thinking perspective, I think their claims are null and void except this: A possible future I have envisioned is being on another planet where you have a clear view of all that is happening on the earth. It seems more like watching a movie on a big screen, so gigantic that you can see every corner of the universe. You have the ability to pause, rewind, forward and even make edits to the existing world. This is where Mustapha, an old man who once lived on earth a long time ago, walks in and finds another deeply wrinkled old man called Ali glued to the ‘screen.’ “What are you watching?” he inquires with a shrill voice and grabs the remote control. They fight over it vehemently until Ali shouts,
“This new series called COVID is intriguing, I’m on episode 19 .”
“I’ll only agree to watch if you tell me about it first,” said Mustapha.
“There has been a novel virus on the earth that is detrimental to the well-being of humans. In episode one, it starts from Wuhan in China and the entire Hubei province is put on lockdown. The other episodes show how rapidly it spreads on earth, infecting over 3 million people and killing over 269 274 people (Wolrdmeter, 2020). Episode 19 will be showing how some of these deaths are out of suicide and shows what could be done to halt this. Everyone wants to join our world here right now, let’s have a look!” Ali then presses the play button, and they all stare at the screen intently. A bellowing voice starts narrating, showing quite disturbing images.
Suicide rate plunging up
According to the World Health Organization, one person commits suicide every forty seconds, and it is the second-largest cause of death among young people who are between 15 and 19 years. (WHO, 2019). The Coronavirus pandemic is making this number escalate as people want to take away their dear lives before the infection makes them breathe their last. In India, in the city of Phagwara, Santosh Kaur, a woman who was sixty-five years old, committed suicide. (Baneriji, 2020). She was staying all alone in the village of Khurrampur and had anxiety over Coronavirus. Each day, she told her friends and neighbours that she was COVID 19 positive until her daughters promised to come and take her to be tested the following day. She was worried that she would infect her children with the virus and decided to kill herself by taking some tablets. Her daughters arrived to find a corpse in the house. Doctors investigated and found that the woman had no symptoms of Coronavirus. It is probably his solitude that significantly contributed to her anxiety.
In Saudi Arabia, a Chinese student in Jeddah was taken to King Fahad hospital after showing symptoms of Coronavirus. He was put in an isolated room where he managed to break the window seal and jump off in the middle of the night. The doctors came early in the morning to deliver him some great news that he had tested negative for the virus, only to find an empty room; He is Risen! (Memo, 2020)
This is not the only case in this pandemic. It is estimated that for every one suicide death, there are over twenty suicide attempts done by other people. The numbers are expected to go as high as 800 000 deaths this year with a significant cause being anxiety over Coronavirus and its predicaments such as unemployment. (Kahowl and Nordt, 2020).
A new novel virus?
“Ali, I think there is a new virus that might have more severe effects than Coronavirus,” said Mustapha fidgeting in the seat and sipping a mug of ale.
“Mental health is critical at this time on earth as its disorders could potentially have more infections than the virus itself! I remember when we were still alive in the 14th century, the Black Death Pandemic hailed from China and killed more than 25 million people, a quarter of the earth’s population then. (Dibacco, 1994) It was a bubonic plague that had severe symptoms of swollen lymph nodes, bleeding and dark spots on the skin and could kill in minutes. Most people saw thousands of people dying and were in deep shock and anxiety. Many of them ended up committing suicide, causing an almost equal number of deaths as the plague. Mental health was really critical as everyone felt isolated and apprehended. This may be the novel virus that is looming on earth, more severe than the Coronavirus, which if not well handled, could cause more deaths than the pandemic”.
“I totally agree with you, Mustapha,” said Ali wobbling his head, “I have also closely witnessed that. I lived on earth during the Influenza Pandemic, which was the most severe in the world’s history in the early 20th century. Over five hundred million people, which was a third of the world population were infected and over 50 million people died. ( CDC,2020) Within a period of one year, it spread across the whole world and measures were put in place to mitigate the risks of the virus. Among these were isolation and quarantine for those people who were coming into any country by ship. Ports were closed and everyone advised to stay indoors. Little did they know that this move would be more futile than the virus. The rate of suicide was increasing on a daily basis. Everyone didn’t want to contract the virus and die. Tens of thousands were buried in a day when they were found lying dead in their houses, while others opted to drown in lakes and oceans. Mental health disorders such as anxiety and traumatic stress were more fatal than Influenza. I saw it with my two eyes.”
“Indeed, look at the screen and see how Africa is handling this pandemic,” They sat glued to the screen each of them vigorously nodding their heads in disbelief as the bellowing voice in the movie continued narrating.
Africa’s fate hangs in the balance.
In Africa, the situation is getting worse. The number of infections and deaths are being reported daily with over 51 000 cases and 2006 deaths as of May 7th Shaban(2020). All the fifty-four countries have confirmed cases except Lesotho. This has led to Many countries placing lockdown restrictions and curfews on different parameters. For instance, Nigeria and South Africa are on total lockdown; Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda have set limits to try preventing the spread of Coronavirus (BBC, 2020). Most of all, the other countries have advised everyone to stay at home and have restricted businesses from being carried out. At this rate, Africa is likely to bear the brunt of the pandemic as the socio-economic impact is massive. Most Africans are staying in isolation, unemployed, with no alternative sources of income. This causes fear and anxiety pushing most of them to the extent of committing suicide. Most claim that if COVID 19 doesn’t kill them, then hunger will and before that painful death, then they could kill themselves with ease and go to the after-world.
Africa has often neglected to invest in mental health as leaders are mostly focusing on solving other challenges such as poverty and education imbalance. Countries that are hard hit by Coronavirus such as Nigeria and South Africa have more than 75% and 90%, respectively, of mental health disorder cases that are unattended. (The Conversation, 2020) During this time, suicide could be very rampant in the continent, and it could lead to even more deaths than Coronavirus if states are not vigilant.
Social distance is six feet away, not six feet under
As we await the grand entrance of the vaccine, non-pharmaceutical measures are essential, but we should ensure that solitude does not trigger mental health disorders, which could lead to suicide. This is the time to pick that phone and call someone you have never reached out to
. Wave to a neighbor at the balcony, sing hymns and learn to play musical instruments you never thought you would, start that podcast, post your first Instagram story and share with close friends, reading books that anchor you, saying a prayer. The list is endless!
All these efforts will knit us together in these trying times, and we will end up seeing the end of the tunnel. Stephanie Meyer well quotes this: “I like the night because, without the dark, we would never see the stars.
Indeed, “worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow it empties today of its strength” (Boom, 2020)
Banerji. (2020). Anxiety over COVID-19 leads to Phagwara woman’s suicide. Retrieved May 8th, 2020, fromhttps://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/anxiety-over-covid-19-leads-to-phagwara%20womans-suicide-66466
BBC. (2020). Why lockdowns may not be the answer in Africa. Retrieved May 8th, 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-52268320
Boom. (2020). A quote by Corrie ten Boom. Retrieved May 8th, 2020, from https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/110765-worrying-is-carrying-tomorrow-s-load-with-today-s-strength–carrying-two
CDC. (2020). 1918 Pandemic (H1N1 virus) | Pandemic Influenza (Flu) | CDC. Retrieved May 8th, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-pandemic-h1n1.html
Kahowl & Nordt. (2020). The Lancet Psychiatry. Retrieved 8 May 2020, from https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-0366(20)30141-3/fulltext#bib3
DiBacco. (2020). THE DARK HISTORY OF THE ‘BLACK DEATH’. Retrieved May 8th, 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/wellness/1994/10/04/the-dark-history-of-the-black-death/621a3dda-320d-4b0e-adec-28f8b711d124/
Memo. (2020). Chinese student commits suicide in Saudi after being quarantined for Coronavirus. Retrieved May 8th, 2020, from https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20200217-chinese-student-commits-suicide-in-saudi-after-being-quarantined-for-coronavirus/
Mulroy. (2018). What comes after death? Six people who’ve come back from the grave reveal what happens when we die. Retrieved May 8th, 2020, from https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/what-comes-after-death-6-8314757
Shaban. (2020). Coronavirus in Africa: Over 50,000 cases; 2,000+ deaths; recoveries hit 17K | Africanews. Retrieved May 8th, 2020, from https://www.africanews.com/2020/05/07/coronavirus-in-africa-breakdown-of-infected-virus-free-countries/
The conversation. (2020). Why Africa needs to start focusing on the neglected issue of mental health. Retrieved May 8th, 2020, from https://theconversation.com/why-africa-needs-to-start-focusing-on-the-neglected-issue-of-mental-health-91406
Weiss, M. (2020). How Coronavirus started and what happens next, explained. Retrieved May 8th, 2020, from https://www.wired.co.uk/article/china-coronavirus
WHO. (2020). Suicide: one person dies every 40 seconds. Retrieved May 8th, 2020, from https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/09-09-2019-suicide-one-person-dies-every-40-seconds
Worldmeter. (2020). Coronavirus Update (Live): 3,917,575 Cases and 270,720 Deaths from COVID-19 Virus Pandemic – Worldometer. Retrieved May 8th, 2020, from https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/