TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Preliminary data from the Florida Department of Heath shows suicides were down in 2020 compared to previous years.
But mental health experts warn that while the data paints an optimistic picture, addressing pandemic-related mental health issues remains a major concern.
Since early on in the pandemic, state officials have expressed concern about how lockdowns, record-high unemployment and isolation would impact Floridians’ mental health.
“I really worry about suicide, drug abuse, alcohol abuse,” Gov. Ron DeSantis during a March 2020 news conference.
According to provisional figures released by the Department of Health, suicide deaths appear to have dropped last year. In 2020, there were 2989 suicides reported, a 13-percent decline compared to 2019, which had 437 fewer suicides.
“It is a little surprising to see the numbers,” Melanie Brown-Woofter with the Florida Behavioral Health Association said.
Brown-Woofter said it’s too early to know exactly what findings to glean from the data.
“The numbers are not final,” she said. “We won’t have those results at least until mid-year 2021, but we are seeing a rise in deaths from opioids and other substances. So we’re just looking to make a final confirmation on how the data is related.”
While the provisional data suggests suicides were down last year, people are reporting more mental health issues in general.
“Recent polls have shown there’s an increase in anxiety, increase in depression,” Brown-Woofter said. “And certainly the community provider is seeing an increase in individuals presenting for services, increase to crisis call lines.”
Experts cautioned not to read too much into the data because it hasn’t been finalized and won’t be until May.
There are resources available for those having suicidal thoughts. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is available 24/7. That number if 1-800-273-8255. You can also text “Home” to 741741 to get help.