REPORT: New data shows impact of pandemic on suicides, overdoses in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4)- New data released today by the Utah Department of Health shows suicides and accidental overdoses have not increased during the pandemic.

The major findings of the report show that the number of Utahns who died by suicide has remained statistically unchanged since January 2015, though the UDOH report says that suicides remained high overall. There were also no observed changes in the number of Utahns who died by suicide in any age group.

The overall trend of Utahns who went to an emergency room after attempting suicide or for having thoughts of suicide (suicide ideation) did not change between January 1, 2020, through August 28, 2021.

Despite that, calls to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline continue to increase, according to the UDOH report. This was a trend that was established since at least the beginning of 2019, a year prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Utahns who died by accidental or undetermined drug overdose from March 2020 to the end of May 2021 remained consistent with the number of deaths in previous years. Emergency room visits for drug overdoses remained steady between January 2020 and August 2021.

While a great deal of the UDOH report shows no significant change in the number of suicides and overdoses, other sources indicate that Utahns felt the mental health impacts of the pandemic in ways that are not beneficial to overall well-being.

“There’s no doubt the pandemic has placed additional stresses on individuals, families, and communities,” UDOH Suicide Prevention Research Coordinator Michael Staley says. ”But the fact is, the vast majority of people effectively manage crises, serious mental illness, and extremely difficult circumstances. The typical response to multiple stressors and crises is resilience and recovery, and we are seeing that in our data so far.”

It is important to find ways of getting care for people experiencing increased emotional, mental, or substance use-related concerns. Prevention sources are essential in providing avenues of help during times of mental health concerns.

“We know that prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can and do recover from suicidal thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Fostering environments that promote acceptance, respect, healing, and recovery are ways to prevent people from experiencing suicidal feelings and behaviors,” Suicide Prevention Program Administrator Allison Foust shares.

A copy of the report is available through the Utah coronavirus website here. To seek help for yourself or for someone you care about by calling 800-273-TALK (8255) or visit liveonutah.org. Resources for those seeking help for substance use can be found at 211utah.org or opidemic.org.

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