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The Connection Between Suicidal Thoughts & COVID-19

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen discuss some of the hot button topics surrounding COVID-19 and brain health in general. One of the most alarming of these topics is the climbing rate of suicide and suicidal thoughts during this pandemic. The Amens explain some of the connections between social isolation, stress, helplessness, and depression, and why it’s so important to employ basic wellness strategies to keep sane and healthy.

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Daniel Amen, MD:

Welcome to the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. I’m Dr. Daniel. Amen.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

And I’m Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.

Daniel Amen, MD:

The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit amenclinics.com.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to brainmd.com.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Welcome back. In this episode, we are going to talk about brain in the news. It’s just an exercise I think all of us should do when you become a brain warrior. Really begin to see how what’s happening around you affects the brain, your brain and the brains of those you love.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

And it’s amazing because almost everything does, everything around you. So we’d be so grateful if you write down what you’ve learned and hashtag Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, take a picture of it and post it. That would be awesome. Also, you can go to BrainWarrior’sWayPodcast.com, leave us questions, comments, and we would love it if you would leave us a review. And we love to read these reviews. It also enters you into a drawing for one of our books, either Daniel’s book, The End of Mental Illness, or my book, The Brain Warrior’s Way Cookbook. So let’s talk about this.

Daniel Amen, MD:

So I actually went to read a couple of more reviews. We got so many from Rusty Fungal, a teacher being taught. “I’m so glad I found this life changing podcast. I have shared so much with teens who need this”-

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Oh awesome.

Daniel Amen, MD:

“I heartedly recommend this team.”

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

That’s so great.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Or from Scott, “Thank you, Dr. Amen and Tana for all of the excellent content, both online and in the Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast during these unprecedented times.”

And you know, we have a course on Amen University, the Brain Warrior’s Way that you and I actually taught over six months. It’s a 26-hour course, but the results of people who took that course were stunning. Better mood, better memory, better energy, better focus, [crosstalk [00:02:36] less stress, less anxiety, less pain, and better sleep. So we’re just so grateful.

Brain Warrior Forever, “Thank you for the information on the coronavirus and reminding us about keeping healthy by reducing inflammation and strengthening our immune system. I believe people are looking for more informative ways to weather this virus. In my mind, it is more important to be a warrior as opposed to being a victim, a brain warrior.”

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Love it.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Just so grateful. All right. Questions? No, brain in the news, here we go.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

So there’s a new report released by the CDC that shows more Americans are struggling with mental health and substance abuse during COVID than ever before. The report highlights the need for more mental health services and resources at both state and local levels. I mean, this isn’t [inaudible [00:03:39] to us, we started hearing about this right off the bat. Calls to suicide hotlines are up 1,000%. More people are struggling with opioid addiction than ever before. And new data reveals-

Daniel Amen, MD:

Any kind of addiction, really. Here let me do this one.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Yeah.

Daniel Amen, MD:

New data reveals one in four young people have contemplated suicide during the pandemic. Again, data from the CDC, the report looked at survey responses from 5,412 adults regarding their mental health and behavioral health at the end of June. More than 10% of the respondents said they seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days. Wow. The percentages were much higher for young adults, higher for black and Hispanic respondents, higher for essential workers and unpaid caregivers. This is a percentage breakdown, unpaid caregivers for adults 31%, young adults, 18 to 24, 25%, essential workers 22%, Hispanic report responders 19%, black respondents 15%. Along with suicidal thoughts, 13% of the respondents used substances like alcohol or drugs. And that’s the problem.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

It’s not always the problem though. Yes, it is a big part of the problem. And they’re talking about young adults, but teenagers also.

Daniel Amen, MD:

But the problem is if you have suicidal thoughts, so what we see very common, especially during this chronically stressful time. And I had a patient yesterday who had been depressed and is like, “Okay, now it’s COVID, I hope it takes me.”

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Right.

Daniel Amen, MD:

So that’s a passively suicidal thought.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I’ve heard several people say that.

Daniel Amen, MD:

That if you have the thought. So having the thought is not that abnormal, acting on it is. But if you have the thought and then you use substances, especially those that drop frontal lobe function, you are more likely to act on it.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

But one thing, and we’ve certainly seen this in our own house, and I’ve heard this with many people who write in. When you’ve got teenagers or very young adults living in your house, one thing we’ve certainly seen in our own house, there was a sense of panic and hopelessness at the same time. Because no one has really experienced this. Right? That is unprecedented. And when, especially during the earlier part of COVID, when nobody was really going out at all, there was this like, wait, life is never going to be the same. Are people I love going to die? What do you mean, I can’t go to school or graduate or start my first year in college. We saw a lot of this.

And so young people who had never really had to deal with wars in this country, or a lot of kids have dealt with a lot of trauma, and what I noticed is our nieces who had dealt with trauma did a little bit better than some of the kids we know who haven’t dealt with much of anything. Because it felt like such an overwhelming thing to deal with for the first time. Right? And we did notice that.

So, yeah, substances are not going to make that better, but we just saw the panic, the fear, the overwhelm that happened when COVID had happened, because kids were just not at all prepared for it.

Daniel Amen, MD:

So let’s be clear. You know what I do with my patients, that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary feeling.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Right.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And if you hate the people in your life, kill yourself.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Right.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Because the imprint of sadness, loss, pain, grief, it just, it leaves a mark. And if you have children, if you model that behavior, it dramatically increases their risk of hurting themselves or killing themselves. And so when people get depressed, it’s like their brain gets in a tunnel and there are no windows and there are no doors in the tunnel, so all they see is get me out of this pain. They see suicide as something that hurts them or ends their pain, but doesn’t affect anyone else. And for whatever reason, I’ve been blessed by being around a lot of suicide. My son, who I adopted when he was nine, his biological father killed himself and just see the devastation. Even though I was raising him, I could see how painful that was. Then my son-in-law had a father who killed himself. Again, devastating for the whole family. It’s something that has generational consequences.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Well, I’ve certainly had people in my family who were suicidal. Fortunately, didn’t commit suicide, but were suicidal. And what’s interesting is they don’t see, at the time, because they can’t because of their own pain, what it’s doing to the rest of the family. And when one of them that I was sort of coaching through this dark time, when I explained, “Look your kids, this is like, your kids think it’s their fault.” And those words were sort of like a slap in the face. Because at that point, that person was like, “Why would they think it’s their fault? This has nothing to do with them.” No, the question is why wouldn’t they think it’s their fault? Kids tend to think everything is their fault. They think divorce is their fault. They think if I were only better, this wouldn’t have happened. Or you didn’t love me enough so I’m not lovable.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Because they see the world, they see themselves at the center of the world.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Right.

Daniel Amen, MD:

They take on more than they should. Which is often why doing your life story is so helpful. You have your book coming out, The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child, and it just helps organize things on why you react the way you react. What are your dragons from the past?

Well, we hope this has been helpful for you. Whatever you learn, write it down, post it on any of your social media sites, hashtag BrainWarrior’sWayPodcast.com. And then we would just dearly love it if you went to BrainWarrior’sWayPodcast.com, leave us a comment, question, or a review. If you do, we’ll enter you into a raffle to win either The End of Mental Illness, out now, just went over 100,000 copies sold. So I’m pretty excited about that. Or Tana’s cookbook, which is really the official program of Amen Clinics on how to eat, The Brain Warrior’s Way Cookbook. Stay with us.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

If you’re enjoying the Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, please don’t forget to subscribe, so you’ll always know when there’s a new episode. And while you’re at it, feel free to give us a review or five star rating as that helps others find the podcast.

Daniel Amen, MD:

If you’re considering coming to Amen Clinics or trying some of the brain healthy supplements from BrainMD, you can use the code podcast 10 to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at amenclinics.com or a 10% discount on all supplements at brainmdhealth.com. For more information, give us a call at 855-978-1363.