DES MOINES, Iowa — Many public officials have voiced concerns about the growing number of suicides occurring in the state. However, new reports show this increase isn’t necessarily linked to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Iowa Department of Public Health’s data shows that suicides in Iowa have been steadily increasing since 2000. The state’s Suicide Prevention Director, Pat McGovern, said it’s too early to decide what the leading factor is in 2020.
“There’s not any one area that seems to be driving that increase. It’s just a gradual increase. We might see a little spike or a little drop in any given month,” McGovern said. “That increase is very unfortunate, but it is also very steady. So I think it’s too early to tell what impact COVID will have.”
According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, the number of suicide deaths in 2020 isn’t drastically more than last year. In 2019, from March to August, Iowa had 261 suicides. This year, that number has increased by six to 267.
In February, before the pandemic, there were 63 deaths by suicide reported in Iowa. That is more suicides in one month than the state has seen since 2000.
Polk County reported seeing a 20% increase in need for mental health services among residents. Polk County Supervisor Matt McCoy said this growth isn’t dramatically different from past years, but the upcoming months could pose a different threat.
“We’re coming up on the holidays and the Centers for Disease Control is asking people not to gather as families. That is going to be a big change for people,” McCoy said. “Maybe they’ve never been alone for a holiday before in their life. So this is something we need to prepare for.”