If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Help is available.

This month marks the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. This has been a year of extreme loss, from the loss of more than 500,000 Americans, to many other types of losses from employment to established routines and ways of staying socially connected.

Suicide is not a simple issue to solve nor one in which there’s a one-size-fits-all approach, but we all can play a role in preventing suicide by safeguarding our own and others’ mental health, educating one another on mental health and suicide, as well as providing resources for particular communities, such as youth, minoritized populations, and others where there’s a disproportional impact of the pandemic.

Health disparities have been prevalent for decades and have been even more exacerbated by the COVID-19 particularly when it comes to mental health in medically underserved communities. LGBTQ, American Indian, Alaska Native, Black and Latinx and other communities continue to face elevated suicide risk and long-standing cultural and socioeconomic barriers, such as limited access to mental health care or limited information about how to access resources and get help.

“While suicide risk factors, such as anxiety, social isolation, economic stress, and suicidal ideation have increased during the pandemic, it is important for everyone to understand that suicide risk is complex and protective factors also play a powerful role,” said Chief Medical Officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Dr. Christine Moutier “While we do not yet have national suicide data from the full year of 2020, early data from all reporting states show that the overall suicide rates declined or saw no change in 2020, compared with previous year. This early data helps dispel this common misconception.”

These disparities cannot continue and it is incumbent on political leaders and the medical community to take the necessary steps to create a mental health care system that is equitable for everyone. At AFSP, we are committed to building partnerships and implementing programs designed to address these challenges, accelerate suicide research related to underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, and elevating voices in our field that represent diverse communities.

The public health crisis of COVID-19 has been incredibly trying from both a physical and mental health perspective, however I am deeply encouraged by the way people have come together within their communities to support one another; the increasingly open dialogue among friends and family, in the media, and within workplaces regarding mental health; and the prevalence of telemedicine and other tools that make mental health resources more accessible than ever.

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