During an unprecedented lock down, suicides were down from recent all-time highs, but any loss of life is tragic. And mental health officials say we should be ever vigilant.

WOOD-TV 8 used the Freedom of Information Act to gather Kent County Sheriff's Department data on suicides over the past five years to see if there was an upward tick caused by the challenges of the pandemic.

The good news is the number went down. The suicide rate actually dropped in 2020, however, Health Officials say we need to be mindful and reach out to those who are struggling, because the residual effects of the lockdown may still be impacting residents mental health.

The latest statistics show that since 2018, when Kent County set an all time record of 97 suicides, the rate has dropped slightly.

The 2019 count stayed high at 87, and then dropped to 67 in the pandemic year 2020.

Here's the bad news: the rate has shot up so far in 2021 to 45 already, just half the way through the year.

Of the suicides since the initial lockdown was imposed, only three people specifically mentioned the pandemic as a reason for giving up on life. But when you think of the devastation felt by those families, that's still three too many.

Barbara Hawkins--Palmer, coordinator for the Kent County Suicide Prevention Coalition, told WOOD that vigilance and increased attention on mental health helped keep those numbers low.

“We were vigilant during the pandemic because people were isolated. “We created new resources, we created new links and places where people could get counseling online. Services, I think, expanded because of the pandemic. So, the thing we’re concerned about now is, ‘don’t lose those resources.'”

The news is mixed, however, with an earlier report by WOOD that showed fatal drug overdoses were up in the same time period.

You should seek help if you note these warning signs, the Kent County Health Department says:

  • Inability to cope with daily tasks
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Increased agitation
  • Risky thoughts or behaviors
  • Out of touch with reality
  • Isolation from school, work, family, friends
  • Suicidal, homicidal, or other violent thoughts or actions
  • Planning for death such as giving away possessions

The confidential National Suicide Prevention Hotline is free and available 24/7 at 1.800.273.TALK (8255).

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