Although mental health experts have raised alarm about the impact of coronavirus-related shutdowns, preliminary data from Hawaii health regulators show that fewer people died by suicide in the islands last year.
As a result, many psychiatrists said they increased their patients’ medication dosages or started to see them more often. Hospitals across the state said they were admitting a greater number of patients with psychiatric symptoms.
Visitors maintain safe distances from others at Lanikai Beach in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
But a new report released by the Hawaii Department of Health on Friday found that none of these alarming trends translated to an increase in suicide deaths in 2020.
All told, there were 124 documented suicides in Hawaii during the pandemic period of April through December 2020, according to preliminary mortality data.
That compares to an average of 150 suicides in the same nine-month period from 2015 to 2019 and an average of 138 suicides in the comparable period from 2010 to 2014.
People who die by suicide often have mental health concerns. A growing body of research also links the problem to financial struggles — including debt, job loss and home foreclosure.
But it’s possible, according to the state health department report, that economic suffering has been mitigated by government safety nets, although it is uncertain how long that will continue.
Early decisions to increase medication and the rapid expansion of the use of telemedicine for psychotherapy as well as an increased awareness about the need to seek help also may have contributed to the decline, experts say.