Culture of Caring

The Bad News and the Good News about Suicide Attempts During COVID-19

You may already know about the increased suicide attempts reported by hospital emergency departments. Just over 50% of them were girls. If you dig a little deeper into the report you might notice that the study may not tell the whole story, but it is alarming no matter how you look at it.

We can’t change what has already happened, but what are we going to do about it moving forward? We already know how to prevent suicide. If you work at a school, please help spread the word by making sure the decision makers are aware of these strategies and work to implement them.

Strategies specific to young persons include:

  • Preventing and mitigating adverse childhood experiences
  • Strengthening economic supports for families
  • Limiting access to lethal means (e.g., safe storage of medications and firearms)
  • Training community and school staff members and others to learn the signs of suicide risk and how to respond
  • Improving access and delivery of evidence-based care
  • Increasing young persons’ social connectedness and coping skills
  • Following safe messaging by the media and in schools after a suicide

Suspected Suicide Attempts Increased for Adolescents and Young Adults During COVID-19 

A new CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Emergency Department Visits for Suspected Suicide Attempts Among Persons Aged 12–25 Years Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic—United States, January 2019–May 2021, found that adolescents and young adults aged 12–25 years had fewer emergency department (ED) visits for suspected suicide attempts early in the COVID-19 pandemic. However, ED visits increased by 39% among adolescents aged 12–17 years in winter 2021 (February 21–March 20, 2021) compared with the same time period in 2019.

Suicide can be prevented through a comprehensive approach that supports persons from becoming suicidal as well as persons who are at increased risk for suicide.†† 

Such an approach involves multisectoral partnerships (e.g., public health, mental health, schools, and families) and implementation of evidence-based strategies to address the range of factors influencing suicide attempts, which is a leading risk factor for suicide

Widely implementing these comprehensive prevention strategies across the United States, including adapting these strategies during times of infrastructure disruption, such as during the pandemic, can contribute to healthy development and prevent suicide among young persons.[1]

[1] CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, June 18, 2021.  Yard E, Radhakrishnan L, Ballesteros MF, et al. Emergency Department Visits for Suspected Suicide Attempts Among Persons Aged 12–25 Years Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, January 2019–May 2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2021;70:888–894. DOI:

A Culture of Caring: A Suicide Prevention Guide for Schools (K-12) was created as a resource for educators who want to know how to get started and what steps to take to create a suicide prevention plan that will work for their schools and districts. It is written from my perspective as a school principal and survivor of suicide loss, not an expert in psychology or counseling. I hope that any teacher, school counselor, psychologist, principal, or district administrator can pick up this book, flip to a chapter, and easily find helpful answers to the questions they are likely to have about what schools can do to prevent suicide.

Theodora Schiro