Suicides in Florida down 9% in 2020 despite pandemic stress, state data shows

Florida

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – During the recovery and reopening portion of Florida’s COVID-19 pandemic response, a particular importance for reopening was placed on the role it would have in helping to reduce the number of suicides across the state.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Suicide Prevention Declaration last year referred to a “concerning upward drift of suicide deaths over the past decade, especially now due to the projected mental health impacts associated with the COVID-19 pandemic in Florida.” However, state data shows the true rate of suicides in Florida actually dropped by just over 9% from 2019 to 2020.

At an event in St. Petersburg in early 2021, the governor and his political allies in the Florida Legislature again referred to risks of suicide increasing during the ongoing pandemic. During the event, DeSantis signed an executive order that effectively ended all local COVID restrictions.

In fact, Florida saw a higher decrease in suicide rates than the national average, which came in at 6%, according to preliminary numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on by the Associated Press. The national trend showed the largest annual decline of suicides across the U.S. in 40 years.

Reopening Florida helped businesses in need, but the potential risk of increased suicides from the pandemic ended up an unfounded concern, at least when it comes to the numbers.

Here’s a look at the numbers in Florida and Tampa Bay to see how the suicide rate changed across the state during the COVID-19 pandemic. The numbers of suicides shown below are categorized as “all ages,” rather than splitting them by age group for each county.

CountyNumber of Suicides in 2019Number of Suicides in 2020
Alachua3133
Baker54
Bay3541
Bradford66
Brevard137117
Broward241222
Calhoun11
Charlotte5037
Citrus4638
Clay4329
Collier4560
Columbia2016
DeSoto53
Dixie45
Duval177158
Escambia5366
Flagler2525
Franklin30
Gadsden125
Gilchrist45
Glades42
Gulf74
Hamilton35
Hardee42
Hendry95
Hernando4336
Highlands2722
Hillsborough216187
Holmes27
Indian River2931
Jackson512
Jefferson44
Lafayette00
Lake7872
Lee124130
Leon3341
Levy36
Liberty11
Madison63
Manatee7667
Marion7985
Martin3229
Miami-Dade268215
Monroe2225
Nassau1720
Okaloosa3740
Okeechobee86
Orange140132
Osceola5237
Palm Beach229171
Pasco119103
Pinellas189175
Polk12994
Putnam1222
Santa Rosa3548
Sarasota8678
Seminole5360
St. Johns5346
St. Lucie4740
Sumter3516
Suwanee1210
Taylor24
Union15
Volusia128118
Wakulla45
Walton149
Washington45
State Total:3,4273,113
(Data Source: Florida Department of Health)

Florida saw 314 fewer suicides during 2020. In Tampa Bay, here’s how that broke down county by county:

CountyNumber of Suicides in 2019Number of Suicides in 2020
Citrus4638
Hardee42
Hernando4336
Highlands2722
Hillsborough216187
Manatee7667
Pasco119103
Pinellas189175
Polk12994
Sarasota8678
(Data Source: Florida Department of Health)

While every county in Tampa Bay saw the suicide rate drop, not every county in Florida reflected the statewide trend.

Bay, Collier, Dixie, Escambia, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Holmes, Indian River, Jackson, Lee, Leon, Levy, Marion, Monroe, Nassau, Okaloosa, Putnam, Santa Rosa, Seminole, Taylor, Union, Wakulla and Washington counties all saw increases in suicides during the pandemic.

As Florida continues to reopen and vaccinations continue, it remains to be seen if the suicide rates will continue to fall or if they’ll rise again as the state returns to normal.

If you or someone you love is battling depression or thoughts of suicide, help is always available by calling the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay at 211 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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