“As the nation’s largest suicide prevention organization, we are heartened and encouraged to see the national suicide rate decrease for the first time in 20 years in the United States. We do not yet know about suicide during the COVID-19 pandemic because the United States does not collect suicide data in real time, therefore, claims about increasing suicide rates during COVID-19 are not based in current available data and are unfounded. Emerging data from several countries show no evidence of increased suicide rates during the first few months of the pandemic. For more on this topic: Suicide Prevention in the COVID-19 Era, Transforming Threat Into Opportunity.

There are many factors that contribute to suicide, and several factors may have contributed to the decrease in rate from 2018 to 2019. We cannot determine which specific factors may have contributed to the decline but we do know that creating a culture open to talking about mental health and suicide prevention, educating people about what to do when they are in distress, making help available to those who seek it, using treatments that have been developed based on research, supporting those affected by suicide, and passing legislation that make suicide prevention a top national priority are all positive advancements that we’ve seen over the past several years that likely had a collective impact.

At AFSP, we are committed to creating programs, supporting research, engaging partners, and advancing policies that will help contribute to a continued decrease in the suicide rate – especially important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Project 2025, a first-of-its-kind-initiative led by AFSP, aims to positively impact our culture surrounding mental health and suicide prevention and reduce the suicide rate by 20 percent by the year 2025. By mobilizing institutions, associations, and individuals across healthcare, corrections, and the firearms communities, we are promoting evidence-based practices and research to drive policy, increase engagement around addressing mental health and suicide, and save the most lives in the shortest amount of time.

AFSP’s advocacy efforts have also led to the national prioritization of suicide prevention as demonstrated by the passage of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, which designated 9-8-8 as the new national number for those in crisis (replacing the existing 1-800-273-8255 number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline; as 9-8-8 is not yet universally accessible, individuals should continue to call 1-800-273-8255 until the full effective date of July 2022). Those who are in distress need to be met with resources that will support their mental health including a fully funded, accessible, and well-designed national system of crisis services and health care.

As the nation’s largest private funder of suicide research, we know that concentrated, strategic, culturally competent and evidence-based suicide prevention efforts can save lives. Through these efforts, and by all working together, we have the ability to bend the suicide curve down. We do know that thoughts of suicide are more prevalent among the general population now than before COVID-19, and for that reason we must continue to focus on prevention efforts and supporting those at risk. Suicide can be prevented, and we all have a role to play.”

For safe reporting: https://afsp.org/about-suicide/for-journalists/.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, and with a public policy office in Washington, D.C., AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states with programs and events nationwide. Learn more about AFSP in its latest Annual Report, and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

SOURCE American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

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