MORRIS, Ill. (WGN) – A family is grieving a loss as painful as it is surprising. They believe 48-year-old father Ben Price took his own life after developing a rare and little understood phenomenon called “COVID psychosis.”
The married father of two was a farmer and business owner in Morris, Illinois, southwest of the Chicago metro area. In February, he contracted COVID-19 after riding in a car with others to Bible study.
“He would have never left us,” widow Jennifer Price said. “Our Ben would never have left us. And that’s what we want to get out. He was not our Ben.”
Jennifer said her husband was hospitalized for four days with lung and oxygen issues. He came home a different man.
“He would just pace through the house and repeat things. And it wasn’t even in his normal tone of voice. It was a very different tone. He was very scared. He just kept repeating I’m sorry, I’m just so scared. He would stare out the window and just worry about things that weren’t even happening,” Price said.
Despite doctors prescribing medication to try to calm him, he died by suicide 16 days after his diagnosis.
While exceedingly rare, doctors have reported cases of people developing psychosis after contracting COVID-19, sometimes weeks later, according to The New York Times.
Medical experts said the virus can definitely impact a person’s brain.
“I knew about COVID brain fog and depression and that sort of thing. And we never expected him to not come back 100 percent within a few days,” Price said.
University of Chicago Medicine infectious disease expert Dr. Emily Landon says the bulk of research on COVID-19 thus far has been about transmission and treatment. Experts are only just now beginning to understand how in a small fraction of patients the virus may essentially “re-wire” the brain.
“There’s just emerging literature about the sorts of neurologic and cognitive issues and even emotional and psychiatric issues as part of a Covid infection. In other words, there are a lot of reasons to not get COVID,” she said.
Price is hoping that sharing her story will encourage others to look for signs that COVID has impacted mental health and seek help.
If you or someone you know is struggling to cope during the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created this resource page.