WXMI — For the third year in a row, the Centers for Disease Control recorded a drop in American suicides – a statistic that might come as a surprise during the pandemic.
The 5.6% drop in suicides is in direct opposition to what many in the mental health field expected during lockdown. But while the number is encouraging, it’s not wholly representative of the country’s ongoing mental health epidemic.
Christy Buck, executive director and founder of the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, says she’s more concerned for the statistic in 2021 than encouraged by the number from 2020.
“What’s coming now in 2021 are more risk factors,” she said.
Buck says despite the perils the pandemic brought with it, people were also removed from some of the most common stressors leading to suicide. While there was job loss, financial uncertainty and virtual schooling, Buck says that also led to less career-related stress – a top contributor to mental illnesses linked to suicide – and stimulus checks and eviction moratoriums softened the blow for some people. And as for the kids being home?
“We were still at home with family members,” said Buck. “People were keeping an eye on each other.”
She was quick to note: suicide rates aren’t entirely indicative of the state of mental health in the country. People can still be suffering from mental illness, and in fact, Buck believes that’s been the case in 2020.
“Alcohol sales were out of the roof…same with substance abuse disorder,” she said. “There was a rise in domestic violence. The aftereffects from that can be someone developing a mental health disorder.”
So, as we come out of the pandemic and lose some of our financial familial lifelines, Buck says know the signs of mental illness and seek treatment early for you or someone who is struggling in your life.
“These are changes in their mood,” she said. “Are they more sad? Are there more physical ailments? Do their conversations have a hint of hopelessness?”
Buck says if those feelings persist for two weeks or longer, it’s time to seek help.
If you’d like to contact Christy and her team at Be Nice, click here.
The number for the National Suicide Hotline is 800-273-8255.
RELATED: Breaking the stigma around suicide