Will the Pandemic Result in More Suicides?

April 23, 2021

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News

The New York Times Magazine

According to experts, it is unclear whether the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the nation’s suicide rate. What is clear is the need for immediate prevention efforts, especially among those who may be at risk. Existing data can offer possible clues—but not definitive answers—to the pandemic’s impact on mental health. And in addition to looking at suicide trends in the overall population, it is critical to examine suicide risk among different groups. “You can’t assume the overall trend describes what’s happening with all Americans,” said Sean Joe, director of the Race and Opportunity Lab at Washington University in St. Louis. For example, data from Maryland suggest numbers of suicide deaths increased among Black residents and decreased among White residents from March to May of last year. At the same time, the state’s total number of suicides appeared to go down compared to previous years. While these data are inconclusive, they point to the importance of identifying groups at risk and targeting prevention efforts to those most in need.

Spark Extra! Learn about racial and ethnic disparities in suicide risk.