Suicide rates climbed significantly among American Indian, Black, and Hispanic people in 2021 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new federal analysis found, even as rates of suicide among White people fell for a third straight year.
The authors of the analysis, published Thursday in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, said their findings underscored disparities in the nationwide rise in suicides first reported last year by the agency.
The number and age-adjusted rate of suicides had begun falling in 2019 across the U.S. — a turnaround that followed about two decades of worsening suicide rates since 1999. The decline continued for a second year through 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the country. Suicide fell out of the top 10 leading causes of death for Americans.
But rates of suicide increased in 2021, climbing to nearly 2018’s peak of 14.2 suicides per 100,000 people. The increase was cited as among the main factors driving a that year.
Now, the CDC’s new analysis finds 2021’s increase was worst among American Indian or Alaska Native people. Rates climbed 26% from 2018, from 22.3 to 28.1 per 100,000 people.
Rates also climbed significantly for Black Americans — a 19.2% increase from 2018 — and for Hispanic or Latino people, up 6.8%.
Only one group saw a statistically significant decline in their age-adjusted suicide rate: non-Hispanic White people, whose rate dropped 3.9%, from 18.1 to 17.4 per 1000,000 people.
Among White people, all of the age groups 10 years old and older analyzed by the agency saw roughly flat or declining rates of suicide.
Preliminary data suggests suicide rates had not significantly improved overall through the first quarter of 2022, according to estimates published by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. However, rates varied widely in several states for 2022 compared to 2021.
The CDC has long tracked disparities in rates of suicide. In 2020, even as rates declined amid the first year of the pandemic overall, the agency had found suicide increasing among Hispanic men and non-Hispanic multiracial women.
“Suicide is a complex problem related to multiple risk factors such as relationship, job or school, and financial problems, as well as mental illness, substance use, social isolation, historical trauma, barriers to health care, andof suicide among persons at risk,” the report’s authors wrote.
Citing an analysis published in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the authors also cautioned that suicide rates have been seen rising after other disasters even after appearing to immediately plateau or fall.
“As the nation continues to respond to the short- and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, remaining vigilant in prevention efforts is critical, especially among disproportionately affected populations where longer-term impacts might compound preexisting inequities in suicide risk,” the authors wrote.
If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or a suicidal crisis, you can reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988. You can also chat with the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline here.
For more information about mental health care resources and support, The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–10 p.m. ET, at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.