September 1, 2020

Suicide Prevention More Important Than Ever as a Result of Pandemic, Study Shows

A majority of Americans support initiatives to promote mental health and suicide prevention in the wake of COVID-19.

As the United States grapples with the impact of COVID-19, including related mental health challenges, a new national survey shows that 80% of Americans believe that suicide prevention should be a national priority as a result of the pandemic, and 52% report being more open to talking about mental health as a result of COVID-19.

The survey, conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Alliance), the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), Education Development Center (EDC), and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC), also found that 93% of adults believe that suicide is preventable, and 95% of adults would take action if a friend or loved one was thinking about suicide.

These results show that it is important to invest in suicide prevention initiatives during the pandemic, says EDC’s Jerry Reed, senior vice president for practice leadership.

“While the pandemic continues to take its toll, physically and mentally, on Americans’ health and well-being, the data shows us that Americans see these issues as critically important and that they want to play a role in addressing them,” says Reed.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. In 2018, the latest year for which data is available, 48,344 people died by suicide, and over 10 million adults in the U.S. reported having serious thoughts about suicide. Research has also shown that the pandemic has led to increased levels of psychological stress, which is a risk factor for suicide among adults.

Among the findings:

  • 73% of respondents said they are more aware of the importance of taking care of their own mental health during the pandemic.
  • 78% of respondents viewed mental and physical health as being equally important.
  • 51% said that physical health is treated as more important than mental health in our current health care system.
  • 73% of respondents indicated that they would tell someone if they were having thoughts of suicide.

The online survey was conducted during July 2020, and 2,072 U.S. adults, ages 18 and older participated. Previous Harris Poll surveys about Americans’ attitudes about suicide prevention were conducted in 2015 and 2018.