The world is now seven months into the “new normal,” and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues. There is consistent developing news about the disease spread, rising death rates, a struggling economy, and the constant risks faced by health care professions and essential workers.

During Labor Day Weekend this month, Felton’s San Francisco Suicide Prevention (SFSP) team participated in an event that provided a preview of LatinX Heritage Month (September 15-October 15) and commemorated Suicide Prevention Month.

LatinX Heritage Month recognizes the enduring contributions and importance of LatinX Americans to the United States. The month-long celebration honors the many heritages and cultures of Americans from or with ancestors from Mexico, the Caribbean, Spain, and Central and South America. The term “LatinX” refers to people of Latin American origin and is used as a gender-neutral or non-binary alternative to Latino or Latina.

SFSP table at Carnival 2020

Latino Connect and Carnaval SF invited SFSP to do socially distancing outreach awareness at its “Healing and Recovery, Salud es Poder” event in the Mission at John O’Connell High School and on Harrison Street. In addition to dancing and music, the event had free COVID-19 testing, diabetes, blood pressure and dental screenings, free grocery distribution, a job fair and small businesses onsite.

You may contact San Francisco Suicide Prevention by phone or text:
Crisis Line: 415-781-0500 or 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line: 24/7 Confidential Support, Text MYLIFE to 741741

In the wake of news regarding vaccines and therapeutics in the future, we wait and contemplate the long-term consequence of the pandemic on our mental health. Reports inform us that pandemic-related suicides are surging in many high-risk countries. Suicide hotlines are busier than ever. Suicide prevention, mental health, and self-care should be everyone’s priority.

Mental health professionals have identified a few factors related to COVID-19 that can be expected to increase suicide risk.

Economic Stress
Research studies have long linked economic downturns with increased suicides, and we are now experiencing the worse employment rates since the Great Depression. Due to COVID-19, we face business closures, unemployment, and the shutdown of major public events.

Social Isolation
Social distancing efforts, while an essential tool in containing COVID-19 spread, has meant the loss of contact with friends and family. The isolation is incredibly hard on those living alone or in retirement homes. The loss of human interaction feeds into depression and suicidal thoughts.

Personal and Family Issues
The fear that you and your loved one might contact COVID-19 is very real. Grief over the loss of a loved one is very apparent in these times. Being in constant close contact with the family under shelter-in-place orders or having to step in as a caregiver and teacher for young children as they navigate virtual learning are also significant adjustments and cause for sadness.

Social Media and News Overwhelm
While social media has been a useful way of staying connected with loved ones, we have been besieged with news and non-stop coverage of the pandemic. Given the negative outlook on how the pandemic will drag on for another year, it is hardly surprising that many experience disorientation, depression and frustration.

Health Care Challenges
Many people with existing medical care problems are finding themselves with limited access to health services. Some are canceling elective procedures and having to deal with symptoms such as chronic pain. Since many people with chronic medical issues are already vulnerable to suicide thinking, losing access to medical services reduces the ability to cope. Reports indicate that some primary care facilities are also not giving priority to mental health care services.

SFSP has been operating for the past 58 years and has an incredibly large volunteer base, receiving more than 300 calls a day and saving lives 24/7. The organization was founded by British journalist and Episcopalian priest Bernard Mayes. Upon his arrival in the Bay Area in 1960, San Francisco had the highest suicide rate in the country.

Today, SFSP has a long history of service and has grown into a network of over 500 crisis centers. SFSP has trained over 6,000 youth members in recognizing warning signs and in suicide de-escalation. San Francisco Suicide Prevention’s 24-hour Crisis Line provides immediate crisis intervention and emotional support to everyone who calls.

SFSP aims to help people find a treatment that encourages them to end suicidal thoughts and start finding healthier ways to cope. Mental health conditions are often seen as the cause of suicide, but suicide is rarely caused by one single factor. Other contributing factors are related to relationships, substance abuse, physical health, career and financial problems. Many people who die of suicide are not diagnosed with a mental health condition at the time of death. Whether this is because the mental health issues miss diagnosis early, the fact remains that continuing mental health care after the initial cry for help is critical. Suicide is preventable. Even after the immediate crisis passes, be sure to seek help and get appropriate treatment for suicidal thoughts and feelings and learn effective coping strategies. Reach out to a close friend or loved one.

You are not alone.

San Francisco Suicide Prevention Hotline Crisis Line:
415-781-0500 or 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line: 24/7 Confidential Support, Text MYLIFE to 741741

If you would like to support SFSP in our mission, please donate today. To give, donate online to directly support San Francisco Suicide Prevention.

Felton Donation Page



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About Felton Institute: Founded in 1889, Felton Institute responds to human needs by providing cutting edge, evidence-based mental health and social services that transform lives. Felton Institute is a tax-exempt organization registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit under EIN 94-1156530.

Offering more than 50 acclaimed and honored programs that address homelessness, mental health, prenatal, adolescent, adult and senior needs, Felton Institute provides services in San Francisco, Alameda, San Mateo, Marin, and Monterey counties.

Felton is named for its social services pioneer and executive director Dr. Katharine “Kitty” Felton who was called the ”conscience of San Francisco” and was committed to ensuring that children and families in crisis have access to social services and resources in order to help them build upon their inherent strengths and develop self-sufficiency.