KUTV — Preliminary data from the Utah Department of Health shows no increase in suicides or drug overdoses in Utah since the pandemic began in March 2020.
The report shows deaths from drug overdoses remained stable throughout the first 39 weeks of 2020, were consistent with drug overdose death counts in 2019, and were lower than drug overdose death deaths in 2018.
While the long term consequences of the pandemic will take time to understand, preliminary data shows no significant increases in suicides, mental distress, or drug overdoses thus far. Public health experts believe the state’s existing mental health and substance use resources may be an integral reason why suicides and drug overdoses have not increased.
“The pandemic has impacted Utahns in significant ways, yet this report shows Utahns are resilient,” Cox stated in a news release.
Despite these difficult times, there is hope. We are not powerless to the difficult circumstances around us. I encourage all Utahns to continue to lift each other up and provide the support we all need during these challenging times.
The data also shows the overall trend of suicide ideation and suicide attempts have remained stable in Utah.
During his COVID-19 weekly press conference, Cox said the data is "not mean to minimize the tragedy and sadness and reality of every suicide."
“We are fortunate to have a robust data system in place to monitor trends in social and behavioral health outcomes,” Michael Staley, suicide prevention research coordinator with the UDOH Office of the Medical Examiner, stated in a news release. “We must remain vigilant. We are still in the midst of a pandemic and there is work for every Utahn ahead."
As much as we are relieved that suicides and overdoses have not increased yet, suicide rates remain high. Experts predict that the impact of the pandemic can occur much later, after the pandemic ends. We must continue to strengthen the prevention infrastructure and work together to end suicide.
Other key findings:
Anyone who is experiencing thoughts of suicide or crisis can reach out to the Utah Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.