WAILUKU, Maui — The state Department of Health said suicide rates decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic compared with previous years.
Data for 2020 provided by the health department did not indicate a significant connection between suicide and the pandemic, The Maui News reported Saturday.
The average number of deaths by suicide were higher in February, just before the pandemic hit, and lowest in April, June, September and December, the department reported.
“(The) conclusion was no apparent increase in deaths by suicide in 2020 compared to previous years, in any county,” said Dr. Dan Galanis, a state epidemiologist in the health department’s Injury Prevention Branch.
It’s possible that economic hardship was reduced by temporary state and federal assistance, such as unemployment benefit extensions, business loans and a ban on evictions. But financial or employment issues are not commonly documented as suicide triggers, Galanis said.
Preliminary data shows there were 124 suicides from April through December 2020 — lower than the 150 suicides in the same nine-month periods from 2015 to 2019 and the 138 suicides in those months from 2010 to 2014, the health department said.
However, suicide was the second-leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 34 last year, the fourth-leading cause for ages 35 to 44, fifth for ages 45 to 54, eighth for ages 55 to 64 and 17th for those 65 and older, the state said.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention ranked Hawaii 41st in the nation for suicide rates in 2020. An average of 190 Hawaii residents per year kill themselves, state data shows.