Firearm suicides rose to 30-year high in 2021 during pandemic, new official stats show

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Firearm suicides skyrocketed in 2021 to their highest rate in over 30 years, an alarming trend that coincided with the global Covid pandemic.

More than 26,000 Americans killed themselves using a gun in 2021, according to provisional federal data – or 55 per cent of all suicides. That marks the highest rate since 1990.

Suicides overall have increased over the past decade across age groups including teens. And the rate of teen suicides caused by guns remains high. 

About 44 per cent of suicide deaths in the 14 to 18-year-old age group were caused by guns between 2015 and 2020. 

Suicides overall rebounded last year for the first time in two years, with roughly 48,000 Americans taking their own life.

It is feared to be an early sign of the economically brutal effects of lockdowns and pandemic restrictions.

Firearm suicides skyrocketed in 2021 to their highest rate in over 30 years, an alarming trend that coincided with the global Covid pandemic

Firearm suicides skyrocketed in 2021 to their highest rate in over 30 years, an alarming trend that coincided with the global Covid pandemic

More than 26,000 Americans killed themselves using a gun in 2021, according to provisional federal data - or 55 per cent of all suicides. That marks the highest rate since 1990

More than 26,000 Americans killed themselves using a gun in 2021, according to provisional federal data – or 55 per cent of all suicides. That marks the highest rate since 1990 

Suicides overall rebounded last year for the first time in two years, with roughly 48,000 Americans taking their own life

Suicides overall rebounded last year for the first time in two years, with roughly 48,000 Americans taking their own life 

This graph shows the total number of suicides by year (yellow line) in the United States, and when the Covid pandemic struck (red section). It reveals they ticked up again in the second year, which experts said could be down to the coming together in the pandemic ending

This graph shows the total number of suicides by year (yellow line) in the United States, and when the Covid pandemic struck (red section). It reveals they ticked up again in the second year, which experts said could be down to the coming together in the pandemic ending

The firearm suicide rate among Americans 10 and older jumped 8.3 per cent from 2020 to 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday.

The highest rate of firearm suicides among people under 45 were reported in non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native, while the highest rates in adults over 45 were among non-Hispanic White people.

How did the Covid pandemic impact mental health?

The onset of the pandemic in spring 2020 brought with it mandatory isolation and lockdowns.

Increased prolonged isolation took a toll on Americans’ mental well being.

About 40 per cent of adults have reported symptoms of depression and anxiety since the pandemic began in 2020, a share that has been largely consistent, up from about one in 10 US adults who reported these symptoms from January to June 2019

Firearm suicides among Americans 10 and older jumped 8.3 per cent from 2020 to 2021. 

Suicides overall increased by approximately 4 per cent, CDC data shows. 

The highest rate of firearm suicides among people younger than 45 were reported in non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native. 

The highest rates in adults over 45 were among non-Hispanic White people. 

Some racial and ethnic groups experienced substantially higher firearm suicide rates in 2021. 

While the CDC’s analysis did not pinpoint the causes for the increases, authors note that complex social and environemntal? conditions are associated with higher risk for suicide.

Systemic economic, educational, housing, and employment inequities and structural racism have contributed to these disparities and the pandemic like exacerbated these conditions, especially in some racial and ethnic communities.

Living through the global Covid pandemic has taken a toll on many people’s mental wellbeing. 

About 40 per cent of adults have reported symptoms of depression and anxiety since the pandemic began in 2020, a share that has been largely consistent, up from about one in 10 US adults who reported these symptoms from January to June 2019.

Job losses early in the pandemic linked to massive economic shutdowns fomented feelings of depression and anxiety among adults. Roughly 3 million fewer people are employed in 2022 than were before the pandemic. 

School and university closures were particularly hard on children and young adults. 

The pandemic contributed to a wave of adults seeking treatment for mental health conditions. 

The increased number of people looking for help was highest among young adults ranging in age from 18 to 29.

As the number of suicides caused by firearms increased from 2020 to 2021, suicides overall also increased by approximately 4 per cent, CDC data shows.

Suicides had actually declined the year prior, despite what many people, including mental health experts, anticipated. GOOD

The record high rates of firearm suicides last year indicates a need for more full-throated prevention efforts across sectors such as healthcare, law enforcement, education, and social services, the authors said.

Prevention efforts can include street outreach and hospital-based interventions, efforts to enhance secure firearm storage and reduce access to firearms among those at risk for harming themselves or others, programs that teach coping and problem-solving skills, and therapeutic interventions.



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