Need help? If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, reach out to the 24–hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255; contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741; or chat with someone online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org. The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay can be reached by dialing 211 or by visiting crisiscenter.com.
Super Bowl champion Tom Brady told his Instagram followers that suicide accounts for more death than COVID-19.
“More suicide deaths than coronavirus death past two months,” Brady had on his Oct. 27 post. “So wash your hands and wear your mask, but don’t forget to be nice to people and yourself.”
We reached out to Brady to learn where he got his numbers and did not hear back, but government numbers and experts show he’s wrong.
There’s a general sense in the mental health community that disruptions in daily life, whether through social isolation or the loss of jobs, increases the risk of suicide. But Brady’s statement goes too far.
“There’s no way this can be true,” said president of the American Association of Suicidology Dr. Jonathan Singer.
The most reliable statistics on suicides come from the National Center for Health Statistics and are from 2018. That year, there were 48,312 reported suicides, or an average of 4,026 every month.
Coronavirus deaths per month in the United States have been four times higher or more in recent months.
Going back to June — a month when deaths were falling — it was about 19,000. Now, it’s about 22,000 people per month. This chart shows the ebb and flow of deaths, measured as a seven-day rolling average.
The point is, no matter which recent months you take, COVID-19 has killed far more people than suicide has per month historically.
Is something happening different in 2020? Well, we don’t know; and neither does Brady.
Singer noted that preliminary numbers of reported suicides for 2019 show a slight decline since 2018 in the suicide rate. And Singer said there are no national numbers that are current.
“Reporters ask us what is the effect of the coronavirus on suicides, and we don’t know,” Singer said. “Because we don’t have the data.”
Some counties track suicides nearly daily, but Singer said there is no way to estimate national trends based on limited local information.
“For this to be right, you would need a rise in the suicide rate that is just impossible,” Singer said.
Brady said that in the past two months, there have been more deaths from suicide than COVID-19.
There are no national numbers that back this up. COVID-19 has been killing people at a rate that is at least three times greater than suicide historically.
A leading researcher we reached said even in the absence of firm data, it is impossible for the suicide rate to have increased to surpass the COVID-19 death rate.
We rate this claim False.
• • •
Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage
HOW CORONAVIRUS IS SPREADING IN FLORIDA: Find the latest numbers for your county, city or zip code.
GET THE DAYSTARTER MORNING UPDATE: Sign up to receive the most up-to-date information.
A TRIBUTE TO THE FLORIDIANS TAKEN BY THE CORONAVIRUS: They were parents and retirees, police officer and doctors, imperfect but loved deeply.
HAVE A TIP?: Send us confidential news tips
We’re working hard to bring you the latest news on the coronavirus in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription.