Chief Executive Officer
Director of Public Relations and Media
Washington, D.C. (November 2, 2020): The novel coronavirus and COVID-19 continue to wreak havoc on the public health of the United States. With more than 230,000 deaths due to the virus, current political events, and the nature of the circumstances surrounding every day life, it is understandable that many Americans are feeling anxious, scared, depressed, uncertain, and perhaps experiencing thoughts of suicide. Despite the rhetoric being shared in certain political circles, via celebrities, and in social media posts, the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) would like to assure the American public that while rates for suicide continue to pose a serious issue for the people of this country (we lost more than 48,000 people to suicide in 2018), the national rate of deaths by suicide have not surpassed the rate of COVID-related deaths at this time. In fact, data from some locations indicate that rates have been decreasing during the pandemic.
“When we look at the national death rates, I don’t think that there has been a single month since April 2020 when there were more suicide deaths than COVID-related deaths in the USA,” said Jonathan Singer, PhD, President of AAS. “I would be able to tell you definitively if we had real-time tracking of suicide deaths in the USA, but we don’t.”
Suicide remains a tremendous public health issue, ranking as the 10th leading cause of death in the US. We lose 132 people a day to suicide, with substantially more people attempting suicide. Suicide prevention should be seen as a priority in terms of funding for research, prevention, and intervention. Developing and funding a national level, real-time reporting system is essential in understanding how events impact suicide rates. While certain states and municipalities are able to retrieve some preliminary real-time data regarding suicide deaths through partnerships with local medical examiners and coroners, nothing similar exists at a national level. AAS wholeheartedly advocates for creating a world worth living in, which includes feeling safe, protected, and cared for during periods of time when everyone’s health is at risk.
“While suicide and suicide rates have most certainly increased in the last couple decades, a higher level in 2020 for suicide than for COVID is unreasonable and logically must be inaccurate,” said John McIntosh, PhD, suicide statistics expert and Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Indiana University South Bend. “Suicide is currently the 10th leading cause of death and COVID’s current levels are only exceeded by heart disease and cancer (for 2018: 655,000 and 599,000, respectively, with accidents 4th at 167,000 deaths).”
As a public health organization, AAS feels it necessary to implore others to take the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 seriously: continue to wear masks in public, physically distance from others when necessary, wash your hands and use hand sanitizer, and avoid touching your face. Our vigilance in this matter will go a long way in curbing the spread of the virus and save lives. While we are doing our part in lessening the consequences of the outbreak, we can continue to check in on our loved ones, be kind to those we interact with, and make connections stronger. We can all continue to play a role in suicide prevention while creating a safer world to live in.
For the Media: Responsible reporting on suicide, including stories of hope and resilience, can prevent more suicides. Please visit the Suicide Reporting Recommendations for more information. Additional information can be found at SuicideReportingToolkit.com.
About AAS: The American Association of Suicidology is the world’s largest membership-based suicide prevention organization. Founded in 1968 by Edwin S. Shneidman, PhD, AAS promotes the research of suicide and its prevention, public awareness programs, public education and training for professionals and volunteers. The membership of AAS includes mental health and public health professionals, researchers, suicide prevention and crisis intervention centers, school districts, crisis center professionals, survivors of suicide loss, attempt survivors, and a variety of laypersons who have in interest in suicide prevention. You can learn more about AAS at www.suicidology.org.