Suicide rates on the rise amid COVID-19 pandemic

In order to address this range of risk factors and prevent suicide, CDC’s comprehensive public health approach to suicide prevention is needed.

SUICIDE RATES

According to the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, calls for help are on the rise and before Monday’s tallied numbers came out showing 13 total COVID-19 deaths in the state, more people had lost their lives to suicide than COVID-19.

Phones are ringing off the hook at suicide hotlines around the country in recent weeks. One Suicide Prevention Services hotline in Illinois does not have enough staff to field all the calls.

“We are seeing a massive shift to anxiety,” said Suicide Prevention Services Education and Training Director Natasha Clark. She said callers are not necessarily worried about catching the virus, they are more fearful of its financial impact on their lives from job loss, homelessness, and loneliness.

“Alone with their thoughts, so many callers are on the brink. It’s creating a sense of deep despair among callers,” Clark told the Chicago Tribune.

Suicide is a growing public health crisis in the United States. In 2018, suicide took more than 48,000 lives, with rates increasing 35% since 1999. Suicide has devastating consequences on individuals, families, schools/workplaces, and entire communities. There is no single cause of suicide. Factors increasing suicide risk occur at the individual, relationship, community, and societal levels and may include job/financial, health, criminal/legal, and relationship problems, substance use, loss of a friend or loved one to suicide, a history of suicide attempts, and mental health concerns, among others.

In order to address this range of risk factors and prevent suicide, CDC’s comprehensive public health approach to suicide prevention is needed. This approach includes the development of a strategic action plan with the following components:

  • Strong leadership to convene and connect multi-sectoral partnerships
  • Use of data to identify vulnerable populations with increased risk of suicide and to better characterize risk and protective factors in these populations
  • Inventory of existing programs; identification of gaps in prevention for the vulnerable population(s); and selection of multiple policies, programs, and practices with the best available evidence using CDC’s Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policy, Programs, and Practices
  • Rigorous evaluation of the overall approach and individual activities
  • Use of data for continuous quality improvement and sustained impact
  • Develop, implement, and evaluate a communication and dissemination plan

Pending available funding, CDC’s Injury Center intends to commit approximately $7 million per year for five years to support up to ten cooperative agreement recipients.

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