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Utah reports suicide attempts down during pandemic

Mental health advocates are warning of the possible impact that limited social interaction and months of isolation can have on child development. (PHOTO: KSL File)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Despite national concerns, Utah suicide attempts are actually down since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Breaking down the numbers

Reports of suicide ideation are down 23.5% since the “stay home, stay safe” directive in late March. While reported suicide attempts are down 7.5% compared to the preceding period.

Some experts theorize the lower rates could be, in part, because of increased social solidarity. They say, for example, it’s significantly easier to lose a job when you most likely know others who also have.

The question everyone is hoping to answer though is if this trend is here to stay.

“As researchers, we really have no historical event to look back on that would tell us where we’re going, where this road map is taking us,” explains Michael Staley, suicide prevention research coordinator with the Utah Medical Examiner’s Office. 

The bigger picture

With that in mind, Staley points out the state’s overall suicide rate hasn’t changed. There is still an average of seven suicides per week, although experts are hoping the other positive data will eventually have an impact on that number.

“Now is the time to protect these gains,” says Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox. “If we plan and we act now, we can mitigate some of the worst mental-health projections and build on these past successes.”

Mental health officials add this period can be extremely difficult for children with behavioral issues. 

“The best way to help kids during this time is to simply ask them how they feel,” says Dr. Brooks Keeshin, clinician-researcher in the University of Utah Division of Child Protection and Family Health. “Really kind of giving them that safe environment so they can teach us how they’re feeling.” 

He says when school is back in session, health screenings will become a more regular part of a student’s life.