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Experts Say Trump is Wrong About Increased Suicides Due To Closed Economy

If you feel like you are in a crisis situation, and need help or someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

One of the reasons why President Donald Trump wants to end social distancing practices set up in place to deal with the coronavirus pandemic is to stave off an increase in the rate of suicide, brought about, he claims, because of an economic recession due to businesses being shuttered down.

On Monday, Trump told reporters at the White House that he didn’t want to see the economic fallout from taking precautionary measures result in worse outcome. “We can’t have the cure be worse than the problem,” he said.

And on Tuesday, he expanded that rationale to include his worries that a recession could result in an increase in death by suicide.

“You are going to lose people. You are going to have suicides by the thousands,” Trump claimed. “You can’t just come in and say, ‘Let’s close up the United States of America.'”

Trump provided no evidence to back up his claim that a recession, the result of a nationwide social distancing campaign, would result in an increase in suicide rates — and indeed, experts say there is no evidence that would be the case.

“It is not a foregone conclusion that we will see increased suicide rates,” Dr. Christine Moutier, Chief Medical Officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said about the issue.

Indeed, an argument could be made that just the opposite could happen. During times of national crisis, “we actually tend, in most instances, to see suicide rates diminish,” Moutier said. Some believe that’s because society often comes together during such periods, such as when rates of suicide decreased at the onset of America’s entry into World War II.

It’s true that people may become more depressed during this time, and that suicide rates could go up. Rates did increase during the Great Recession, but at the same time, those rates didn’t go up nearly as much as some had predicted they would.

In fact, in the first five years of the Great Recession (from 2008 to 2013), there was an 8.62 percent increase in the rates of death by suicide. But, in the four years after that (2013 to 2017), when the economy was on the mend, suicide rates increased by more than 11 percent.

In 2017, around 47,000 individuals died by suicide in the U.S. Conversely, if little to no action is taken on tackling coronavirus, including ending social distancing practices, some estimates say millions of Americans could die from the disease. With those practices in place, the numbers dwindle back down to the thousands.

Chris Walker

Chris Walker is a freelance journalist based in Madison, Wisconsin, who focuses on news, politics, and analysis of world events. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, since 2005 Chris has reported on workers' rights protests in Wisconsin, opined on four separate presidential elections and written on a number of other political subjects for a variety of national online publications.

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