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Tennessee suicide rates stay constant in 2020 compared to previous year

The Office of Vital Statistics reported 1,220 suicide deaths in 2020 — the exact same number as the number of suicides in 2019.

TENNESSEE, USA — A report from the Tennessee Department of Health revealed that the number of suicides in 2020 matched the number of suicides in the state the year before.

According to the department's Office of Vital Statistics, 1,220 people died by suicide in 2020. They said that the state's population grew during that same year by around 80,000 people. As a result of that population growth, the suicide rate declined slightly to 17.7 per 100,000 people.

Nearly all age groups saw a slight decline across Tennessee, as well as the state's veteran and Black populations. The only age range that did not see a decrease was the 25-34-year-old age range, according to officials.

"This is still too many people," said Misty Leitsch, the executive director of the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network. "Each one of these 1,220 people is a son, daughter, husband, wife, or friend whose loss permanently grieves all those they left behind.”

Officials also said that there was a slight decrease in the number of suicide deaths in April and May 2020, contradicting expectations from officials that there would be an immediate rise in suicide deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When crises like this strike, people band together to help their neighbors, and they are more aware of the potential for psychological overload," said Leitsch. "But as the months pass and the headlines become background noise, we may see the development of delayed-onset trauma. The grief of lost loved ones, job losses, underemployment, and the emotional fatigue of wrought by the resurgence of a pandemic many people thought was ‘over’ may wear people down to their breaking points.”

She warned that people could continue seeing the psychological and emotional impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Agencies across Tennessee and East Tennessee are available to help people and can provide mental health services that reduce suicidal thoughts.

“Ultimately it comes down to the resiliency of our support networks—our families, our neighborhoods, and our workplaces," said Leitsch. "We will also depend more than ever on the mental health, substance abuse, and emergency response agencies that act as safety nets when these other networks fall through.”

Suicide is preventable. It is not a solution to any problem, and WBIR wants to urge people to take care of themselves. We want to make sure that if you or anyone you know may be struggling, there are resources out there.

Anyone can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline anytime at 800-273-8255. They can also reach out to the Mental Health Association of East Tennessee. It is available Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Their phone number is 865-584-9125.

A list of mental health resources is also available here. Any of the phone numbers and links on that page will lead you to people who want to help.