No, that they insisted it was happening and was being caused for a hoax by crazy liberals who hate America. Also that they didn’t care about Americans’ mental health AT ALL before this and still don’t. They just used it to make themselves sound better. If they cared about their constituents’ mental health, they would work to provide a better safety net, eliminate abusive employee conditions, increase health care access, etc.
Not all mental health problems culminate in suicide. It’s perfectly possible that mental health problems are more widespread, yet fewer of them end up as suicides (perhaps because we’re all stuck home watching each other too closely to tie a good noose).
It’s also possible that a lot of folks just increased their drug and alcohol consumption to the point of overdose instead of suicide. You’ll get tons of attention if you make cut marks or say “I’m too tired to keep living.” But people will watch you consume a fifth of whiskey every night with no reaction except “oh, he just really likes to party.”
From the UK, an article about mental health in general during the pandemic and the narrative.
In the UK, some people with mental health conditions were worsened with the most vulnerable affected. But many in the population were resilient.
As noted in the thread, the UK has a very different social safety net structure to the US, so these trends may differ in the US. But it’s notable that mental health problems in other countries were not like a “tsunami”.
I also feel AHunter3 makes a very good point. In addition, maybe there’s even a smidgen of “my suicide won’t register amidst all of this like it would in normal times, so better not do it now” at play here.
One thing to consider: my understanding is that suicide is to some degree an opportunistic act, and that suicidal thinking is usually temporary. If you’re prevented from doing it when you’re ready to, you are something less than 100% likely to persist or try again. Some will, but many won’t.
So, for instance, installing anti-jump nets on bridges that are popular spots will drive down the overall suicide rate even though other locations and methods are still available.
Bringing it back to COVID — I think a lot of times, places, and methods may have been forestalled. People in shared housing had less time to themselves. A lot of tall buildings were closed to the public. Some gun stores closed. And so on. Perhaps this helped reduce the rate of suicide as well?
That crossed my mind as well. Less chance of jumping in front of a subway train if you’re working from home. The problem is that other wealthy countries had stricter lockdowns and did not see historical drops in suicides.
I still think the explanation with the fewest moving parts is that the US, similar to other wealthy nations, had little change in the real suicide rate and the apparent decrease is from stuff hidden in the overdose numbers.
Fungibility in suicide method — people switching from guns to opiates? That seems unlikely, and I doubt you meant that.
Or bad investigatory work by police, or sloppiness by public health agencies? I suppose that could be; there was a lot going on last year, obviously. But when I think about being tasked with classifying an overdose death as suicide or accidental (or, I guess, homicide), I have trouble seeing how we would see a trend of misdiagnosis of OD deaths that’s consistently in one direction and at a much higher rate than usual. (Apparently there’s a lot of controversy about how many OD deaths are secretly suicides, but that was true before 2020.)
I have a new WAG: since suicides peaked in 2018, this is at least partly reversion to the mean.
Anyway, this New York Times article has some analysis that wasn’t in the AP article from the OP.
Just to expand on what I’m thinking, it goes to opportunity like we were talking about. A lot more people had the opportunity to slowly kill themselves without people who care seeing them do it.
Or, as you suggest, police just labeled a few too many overdoses as “accidental”. Have to dig into the numbers to choose between. But the high overdose numbers coupled with a record drop in suicide is just too suspicious a coincidence for me atm.
New South Wales - overall reduction of 5% in suicide, even though a big increase in calls to Lifeline [the main non-governmental crisis service], and part-year finding that rate was stable. These figures are still a bit rubbery to me and are not complete year stats.
Queensland - probably stable or not reliably measurable change for first 8 months of 2020.
Coronial determinations of death will obviously qualify which of these will actually count, and there are possible longer term depressive effects to be picked up in coming years. Australia had <1000 deaths from Covid in 2020 and although some of the shutdowns were pretty serious, they were neither as stern as Europe or ramshackle as the US. I suspect that the declining American figure just shows
how low the low hanging fruit of social welfare is for picking in the US.
Access to means is a big factor in suicides. In cultures where firearms are uncommon or unaccessible to most civilians in peacetime, wartime provides unparalleled access to a most expedient method of suicide.
If gun sales in the US had gone down, that would have been something to give me pause – that the US could indeed be an anomaly with the drop in suicides compared to our peer nations. But gun sales were up in 2020.
I think this (or a slight variation upon it) is possibly an even better point. A lot of people with depression (which is often accompanied by social or generalised anxiety) say they find ordinary tasks like just getting ready to get out of the house exhausting and a source of anxiety. And they get anxious about failing to get to work on time and failing to be well dressed and failing in front of their friends and colleagues etc. Being able to stay in their comfort zone at home could decrease all that.
Oh, and hearty FU to politicians who claimed there was a significant increase in suicide due to COVID lockdowns. I like to think I’m pretty sceptical but I must admit they took me in on this one. It was stated with such confidence, and seemed so plausible, that it didn’t occur to me it might be complete BS.