The decline looked set to end in 2021, with a total of 48,183 suicides.
Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said past pandemics, wars and natural disasters have also seen temporary declines in suicide rates as communities band together to weather the crisis.
Collective emergencies bring with them “layoffs, psychological gearing up and resilience, and working against a common enemy,” Dr. Moutier said. “That will subside, and then you’ll see a return to suicide rates. Which is exactly what we feared would happen. And it has happened, at least in 2021.”
The data also revealed good news: The suicide rate among Americans 45 to 64 years old decreased by 12.4 percent, with significant declines among white, Hispanic and Asian people in that age group.
This positive trend, Dr. Moutier noted, was sometimes accompanied by a negative trend in younger age groups. “What is changing in terms of the environment and access to lethal means and culture?” He said. “It’s almost like we have different subcultures depending on your generation and the community you’re living in.”
One factor in the rising rates of suicide among younger age groups is “the marked weakening of our mental health response system,” which has made it extraordinarily challenging to care for children and adolescents in crisis, said Mitch, chief science officer of the U.S. Prinstein said psychological association.
She cited the example of a friend who panicked after her child expressed suicidal thoughts, waited 36 hours in an emergency room, was sent home “with no resources” after a ten-minute exam, and then to a hospital. Waited weeks for admission. Outpatient Program.
“It’s just become completely untenable,” he said. “We should not be surprised that some children are experiencing a worsening of their symptoms to the point where suicide is more common.”
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call or text 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or speakingofsuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.