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CDC: U.S. Suicide Rate Fell Before COVID-19 Pandemic, But Prevention More Important Than Ever

For behavioral health directors

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Feb. 26 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, after increasing for 13 years, the U.S. suicide rate dropped overall by 2% between 2018 and 2019. But the report cautioned those figures do not account for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Deaths attributed to suicide in 2019 totaled 47,511, with half involving guns, although that rate also fell, according to the CDC. Suicide rates declined by 3.2% for women and 1.8% for men. However, the decrease varied by state and race, falling overall in Idaho, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Virginia — and only among white people. People age 85 and older had the highest suicide rate of any age group, and levels appeared lowest in large, central metropolitan areas.  

As the U.S. continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and its long-term impacts on isolation, stress, economic insecurity, and worsening mental health and wellness, prevention is more important than ever, according to the CDC report. It also noted that past research indicates suicide rates remain stable or decline during infrastructure disruption (e.g., natural disasters), only to rise afterwards as the longer-term consequences unfold in individuals, families, and communities.