It’s no secret that economic distress and social isolation are risks factors for suicide. Mark Person from the Pima County Health Department published a suicide surveillance report with some disturbing results. Normally I would do some interpretation of the data- but in this case I think I’ll provide some excerpts from the surveillance report.

Recent suicide data has displayed a spike in the number of deaths recorded in Pima County for the first 28 days of March 2020. The sharpest increases were observed over the second half of March when 15 suicides were recorded in a 14-day time frame for an average slightly above one per day. This spike was more than double the amount from the previous 14 days

Although we cannot accurately estimate how much of this increase is being influenced by the current environment, we have been able to verify through record review that several of these deaths were influenced by isolation and the constant stream of negative media which exaggerates the sense of risk and fear associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

For these reasons, this alert also comes with a reminder of the psychological trauma that occurs as a result of exaggerated reporting and misused statistics presented out of context. This paired with uncertainty, financial stress, isolation, and reduced access to resources has placed all of our most vulnerable populations at a much higher risk than usual. The current statewide response to the pandemic is rightfully aimed at protecting individuals most susceptible to the virus.

However, given what we know about isolation, poverty, and the profound influence of social media, it’s of equal importance to focus on our most vulnerable populations who are absorbing a disproportionate amount of the consequences stemming from social distancing and financial decline.