Suck It, COVID: Suicides Actually Decreased In 2020
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been fears — valid fears — that the loneliness of being in lockdown would result in an increase in depression and suicide. In the beginning, at least, it seemed like we were all in danger of going off the deep end.
However, it seems that contrary to all of our expectations, and after steadily rising for years, the suicide rate in the United States actually dropped by six percent in 2020, which would be the largest such decline in 40 years. This is according to a recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the lead author of which was CDC's Farida Ahmad.
The pandemic sparked a wave of business closures. Millions of people were forced to stay at home, many of them alone. In surveys, more Americans reported depression, anxiety and drug and alcohol use. Adding to that dangerous mix, firearm purchases rose 85% in March 2020.
But the spring of last year actually saw the year's most dramatic decline in suicide numbers, said the CDC's Farida Ahmad, the lead author of a recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association that detailed the decline.
Suicide had been the nation's 10th leading cause of death, but dropped to 11th in 2020. That was mainly due to the arrival of COVID-19, which killed at least 345,000 Americans and became the nation's No. 3 killer. But the decline in suicide deaths also contributed to the ranking fall.
In light of this news, the way conservatives used threat of suicides as a cudgel to try to force states out of lockdown — which very likely resulted in more COVID deaths than there would have been otherwise — seems even more sinister. Granted, we know they don't actually care about increased access to mental health services and only pay lip service to them every once in a while to get people to stop talking about gun control after a mass shooting. That's awkward, since people who own guns are two to three times more likely to commit suicide than those who do not. But there's still something unseemly about using something so serious for something so opportunistic. They tried to turn wanting to keep people from dying from COVID into not caring if people killed themselves, all because Donald Trump had some weird hangup about pretending there was not actually a pandemic happening, and fuck them for riding along with that.
There are a lot of possibilities for why suicide may have decreased in 2020, but the one that stands out most was the increased access to Telehealth therapy. Making therapy available to people, making it affordable, and making it easy by being clear about how they are supposed to go about doing it very likely saved a lot of lives. Despite the commonly held wisdom that those who want to kill themselves will "find a way," it's well-established that the more steps people have to take in order to commit suicide, the less likely they are to go through with it. The same may be true for seeking therapy.
However it happened, people who didn't previously have access to mental health services were able to get the help they needed, and that was important. It would be really nice if that could be a permanent thing. It's almost as if when you give people access to health care of any kind, they are less likely to die from preventable causes.
And on that note, OPEN THREAD!
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse