We are all aware how devastating the current COVID-19 health and economic situation is. Thousands of jobs have been lost, and many businesses will not survive. We are all sequestered.

As we consider how to start opening, we need to look at the personal consequences of our situation beyond COVID-19.

The young people who are quarantined in their homes may be drinking more, eating more, and getting no exercise. The social fabric often found in the workplace is lost. It is a recipe for anxiety and depression which are leading causes of suicide.

Suicide rates go up in times of economic crisis. Couple that with the social isolation and we could have even more suicides.

David Brooks, in a April 4 Honolulu Star-Advertiser column titled “In times of stress, making deep connections can help,” quotes a study by Samantha Brooks of King’s College London that quarantine produces a range of bad mental health outcomes, including trauma, confusion and anger.

He also refers to an article by Tyler Norris of the Well Being Trust that every one-percentage-point of unemployment leads eventually to a 3.5% increase in opioid addiction.

A deserted Kailua Beach Park on March 28. While parts of the state and counties are gradually being reopened, there are still many restrictions in place because of the coronavirus. Claire Caulfield/Civil Beat/2020

In 2017 Hawaii had, according to cdc.gov reports, 227 suicide deaths and 207 opioid deaths. Research in BMJ, a leading medical journal in a study on the impact of the 2008 global economic crisis on suicides, showed that suicides by men were 4.2% to 6.4% higher than what would have been expected under earlier trends.

Rates were lower for women. France is reporting that cases of domestic abuse have gone up by about a third.

CNN reports that the New York City domestic violence website, NYC Hope, saw website visits double from March 18 to April 5.

The most susceptible demographic to the virus is the elderly with underlying conditions.

Risk Of Suicide, Depression

We need to take all of this into consideration when planning to open our community. What we may be saving in COVID-19 lives of the elderly may be lost to suicide and depression in the young.

The undersigned are all kupuna, some with underlying conditions. We feel strongly that we must consider what this sequestration, loss of jobs, and the personal support that jobs offer will do to the future of our children.

We elderly can remain sequestered, and we will help each other. We must find ways for life to open again for the rest of the community.

Please consider:

  1. Open parks and beaches. People must have places to have a sense of freedom. People will have greater confidence. The fresh air and open skies work wonders. The New York Subway is the greatest conduit for the spread of the virus. Not open air places.
  2. Open school racetracks so people can walk around the track.
  3. Gradually open retail businesses that maintain social distancing.
  4. Open private clubs and exercise facilities. Open restaurants, and retail businesses.
  5. Prepare for testing to be done on the mainland for tourists to begin coming back. Welcome them back.
  6. Allow schools to open in the fall. Provide protection wherever needed.
  7. Allow summer activities to open for children.
  8. Constantly reassess and add more places.

Please consider all these consequences as we make our way through the next few weeks.

The following are co-authors of this Community Voice: Cliff Slater, Maria Finan, Marcia Tricky, Dale Evans, Sharon and Dick Porter, Evy Lim, Tomma Irvine, Rudy and Connie Magdangal, Miles Anderson, Gib and Jackie Black, Betsy and Brad Jencks, and Suzanne and Roland Maurer.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a current photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

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