4/15/21: Suicide Deaths Only Tell Part Of The Story

Stress is stress. Trauma is trauma. So emotional pain is emotional pain…& as humans we’re wired to find our ways out of pain. Whether it’s an impulse to escape the pain, or an active choice to find ways to escape it…it’s what we do.

First week in April, there were a LOT of articles, news stories, & posts abt the CDC #s showing that suicides had gone “down” in 2020 during the pandemic (the quotes will make sense in a bit). The claim was, after steady increases since the 1940’s, leading to a high in 2018, & abt no jump/change in 2019, it’d gone down in 2020; so the pandemic didn’t really impact these outcomes negatively.

I looked at those charts when they came out…& what I saw was that deaths by “unintentional injuries” had jumped about 20k from 2019-20….way more than suicides had gone “down.” Then…these articles started to come out – deeper dive: specifically our opioid overdose deaths went UP a ridiculous amount. Largest yr-to-yr increase since the opioid epidemic began in the 90’s.

THIS is a problem!! Our media separates “deaths of despair”…so then everyday ppl in their posts do the same. They separate them off the heels of sensationalizing stories of “addiction” as if it’s different than/unrelated to this thing called MH.

Do we see the problem here? I’m not saying there aren’t some opioid deaths that are mistakes. Of course there are. But to say the TRAUMA we just lived through from the pandemic didn’t cause terrible outcomes, by starting w a broad message that there was “decrease” in suicides, is NOT the full picture.

And why do I point this out? Of course I don’t want the reality to be what it actually is- that deaths of despair have gone up. I bring this up…bc we have a whole stretch coming up, where ppl’s resiliency will be challenged, as they get back to the stress of the world returning to “normal” on top of the foundation of trauma we just lived through.

If we have a misleading msg that parses out the #s for a narrative, that can take society’s collective foot off the gas. That’s not good for the movement needed in this space. These topics are ALL connected. Let’s keep pushing.

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