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Despite the Pandemic, U.S. Suicide Rates Declined Significantly in 2020

Crystal A. Dixon | Contributor | Friday, April 9, 2021
Despite the Pandemic, U.S. Suicide Rates Declined Significantly in 2020

Despite the Pandemic, U.S. Suicide Rates Declined Significantly in 2020

The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that the U.S. saw its most significant decline in suicides in forty years last year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The six percent decline is expected to change as death certificates are still being filed. As a result of long-term stress and trauma, there has been a concern that the coronavirus might spark more suicides; however, officials project a significant decline will persist.

While data does not indicate why the suicide rate plummeted, some experts attributed it to the trends observed at the beginning of previous national disasters and conflicts.

Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, told the Associated Press, “There’s a heroism phase in every disaster period, where we’re banding together and expressing lots of messages of support that we’re in this together. You saw that, at least in the early months of the pandemic.”

Further, Dr. Moutier suggested the expansion of telehealth services and resources may have also impacted the decline of suicides.

The national suicide rate in the U.S. gradually increased from 2000 until 2018, ultimately reaching its greatest number since 1941. Experts suggest that the national rate fell slightly in 2019 due to expanded suicide prevention programs and more accessibility to mental health screenings.

In contrast, some concern grew that the falling trend would stop when the coronavirus infiltrated the U.S. population and triggered a national shutdown of schools and businesses requiring millions of Americans to stay home, with many living alone. Furthermore, surveys indicated depression, anxiety, and drug and alcohol use were more prevalent across the country, with an 85 percent increase in firearm purchases in March 2020.

Farida Ahmad of the CDC co-authored an exhaustive report about the remarkable 2020 decline of suicides in the Journal of American Medical Association.

According to Ahmad’s report, suicide dropped from the 10th to 11th leading cause of death in the U.S. last year, while at least 345,000 Americans succumbed to the coronavirus, making it the nation’s number 3 killer last year.

The CDC has not presented an official summary of the 2020 suicide stats yet. Dr. Moutier told The AP she is eager to study the findings, hoping the decline is the start of a continuing trend. However, she is also concerned negative trends could develop later as many people fall into deep grief over people and things lost during the pandemic.

“There’s sort of an evolution of mental health distress,” she said. “It’s possible we will see the whole mental health ramifications of this pandemic” later.

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Despite the Pandemic, U.S. Suicide Rates Declined Significantly in 2020