US Suicide Deaths Have Dropped Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, Experts Say
Experts say it is unclear exactly what prompted the drop, which is the largest annual decline in four decades, but one factor may be a phenomenon seen in the early stages of wars and natural disasters, some experts suggest.
Suicide deaths in the U.S. fell nearly 6% in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, which is the largest annual decline in at least four decades, according to preliminary government data. What caused the decline?
Experts say it is unclear exactly what prompted the drop, but one factor may be a phenomenon seen in the early stages of wars and natural disasters, some experts suggest, according to CBS News.
"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," Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, told CBS News. "You saw that, at least in the early months of the pandemic."
Another factor may be an increase in the availability of telehealth services and access to mental health care by Zoom and online therapy, MarketWatch reported.
In the early 2000s, the national suicide deaths in the U.S. continued to increase. In 2018, it was at its highest level since 1941. That number fell slightly in 2019. Experts credited the decline to more individuals getting mental health screening and participating in suicide prevention efforts. The number further decreased in 2020 to below 45,000, estimated to be the lowest number of U.S. suicide deaths since 2015, CBS reported.
The COVID-19 pandemic has killed 345,000 Americans and has prompted a surge in drug and alcohol use, depression and anxiety. Even the purchase of firearms went up 85% in March 2020. The decline continues as COVID-19-related death certificates continue to come in, experts say.
The most significant decline in the U.S. suicide rate took place last spring, said the CDC’s Farida Ahmad, the lead author of a recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, who detailed the decline, CBS reported.
While overall suicides decreased last year, it's possible that suicides by youths and young adults did not, according to Moutier, who said she hopes to see more data. She feels optimistic though, that the trend will continue but also pointed out the delayed effect the pandemic may have on a person’s mental health.
”There's sort of an evolution of mental health distress," Moutier said. "It's possible we will see the whole mental health ramifications of this pandemic" later."
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