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Preliminary MDHHS data shows suicides in Michigan down from 2019 to 2020

signs that say don't give up, you are not alone, and you matter
Dan Meyers

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, suicides decreased in Michigan from 2019 to 2020. The data shows 1,471 deaths by suicide in 2019 and 1,284 deaths by suicide in 2020—a 12% decrease.

The data is preliminary, and officials will need to review death certificates thoroughly before confirming final numbers.

Prior to the release of the preliminary numbers, some state lawmakers have claimed that suicides have increased during the pandemic. Officials say it's likely the number of deaths by suicide will increase slightly, but not exponentially. 

Kristen Smith is the program coordinator for Preventing Suicide in Michigan Men, a program administered by the MDHHS that began in 2020. She says it can be tough to say for certain what causes increases and decreases from year to year.

"Suicide is also, you know, not attributable to one thing. So it’s hard also to say for certain what the cause of the ebbs and flows of the suicide numbers could be," she said.

The many factors that go into a death by suicide make suicide prevention a complex and multi-faceted issue, Smith says. 

"Suicide prevention is about building relationships and connecting people to resources and help, but it’s also about that upstream prevention, making sure people have what they need to have a quality of life: making sure that folks have stable housing, economic support, access to quality care," she said.

Smith's program, Preventing Suicide in Michigan Men, gets grant money from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She says it's one of the few times the CDC has given money for an actual program, and not just research. This particular program focuses on men, and the stressors that impact male suicides across the state, like working in primarily male industries.

Smith adds that the state is working on planning and administering other programs that focus not just on individual, behavioral health, but also on community mental health and the public health issues that surround suicide.

The national suicide prevention hotline is available 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.

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Caroline is a third year history major at the University of Michigan. She also works at The Michigan Daily, where she has been a copy editor and an opinion columnist. When she’s not at work, you can find her down at Argo Pond as a coxswain for the Michigan men’s rowing team. Caroline loves swimming, going for walks, being outdoors, cooking, trivia, and spending time with her two-year-old cat, Pepper.
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