Scott Smith, Executive Director
Alliance for Suicide Prevention
In the past two months I have been asked by community leaders how the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting the suicide rate. Indeed, these unprecedented times have exacerbated struggles in already challenged communities now hard hit with increasing housing and food insecurity, job loss, and medical vulnerability — all known risk factors for increases in the rate of suicide.
We won’t know the full extent that this pandemic is having on the suicide rate for some time. But some initial gauges indicate that the suicide rate is not increasing in our region. Before we can have a complete and accurate assessment of the suicide rate related to Covid-19 we will need more data over time.
Thankfully, we are seeing an uptick in people utilizing local and state crisis resource services. We are also starting to see a higher number of people utilizing behavioral health supports and tele-therapy.
While some might think that if more people are accessing crisis services more people must be dying by suicide actually, the opposite is true. More people utilizing crisis services means more people are reaching out in their time of need and are getting the lifesaving help and support they need.
Behavioral Health and Crisis services are preventative services — the goal is to increase the amount of people who feel comfortable accessing them. Each person who calls the crisis line or walks into a crisis center represents a life saved. I am happy to report that a lot of lives are being saved during this current pandemic.
In addition to more people reaching out and getting help, several studies are emerging that demonstrate most people are not experiencing decreases in connection or a lack of belonging. In fact, it seems that these difficult times are highlighting people’s resiliency, altruism and connection to their family members and their neighbors.
In a recent study conducted by the University of California, Riverside and the University of British Columbia, people are demonstrating remarkable resiliency and are not experiencing less connection to others. This might be attributed to creative and virtual platforms that people are using to stay connected with one another. Or perhaps we are witnessing the innate human response during challenging times to make time for one another.
Not only are people reaching out to formal and informal mental health supports, but we are more often reaching out to help each other. Many more people are donating their time to local nonprofits and helping people in need. In the last 8 weeks, every time I have seen someone with a “Hungry” sign, I have witnessed someone offering them a meal. Just three months ago, this was not the case.
More than at any other time, charitable giving has increased dramatically in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. According to www.candid.org, more than 9.5 billion dollars worldwide has been donated to Covid-19 related causes. This dwarfs giving after any other disaster or crisis in modern times. More than two thirds of this giving has occurred in the United States. I mention this increasing generosity not to minimize anyone’s personal suffering, but to highlight our path forward and to showcase our collective resiliency — luckily, a crisis brings out the best in many people.
Perhaps that community support, combined with daily individual acts of kindness, connecting people to the right resources and being innovative about how we connect socially, will help us all get through this together.
If you or someone you know are in crisis please reach out and utilize these resources:
Connections non-crisis COVID-19 emotional support line: 970-221-5551, 7 days a week
SummitStone Crisis Line, 970-494-4200
Colorado Crisis Services, 1-844-493-8255 (or text “TALK” to 38255)
LGBTQ+ Youth Crisis support 1-866-488-7386 and www.thetrevorproject.org
Veteran Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255 press 1 and www.veteranscrisisline.net
Alliance for Suicide Prevention of Larimer County website www.suicideprevent.org