The New York City Health Department has released a new report detailing provisional suicide death data for the first six months of 2021. According to the report, there were 285 suicide deaths from January to June — a number that is consistent with the numbers across the previous decade.
“Every 16 hours, someone dies from suicide in New York City,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “All of us have been touched by suicide in some way, including myself and my family.,” he added. “We must, once and for all, eliminate shame, stigma and discrimination around mental health needs.” He said it’s okay to ask for help. “If you’re struggling with your mental health, support is available. Call or text NYC Well to connect with a counselor and learn more about available help and resources. You are not alone,” he added.
“Based on the NYC Community Health Survey data from 2020, 2.4% of NYC adults ages 18 and older thought seriously about ending their own life at some point in the past 12 months. Among those with suicidal ideation, 14.1% attempted suicide in the past 12 months,” the Health Department said in a statement.
Over the last decade, the overall rate of suicide has remained flat in NYC and is about half of the national rate, according to a Health Department report released last year looking at suicide death trends from 2010 to 2019.
According to a new report released by the City’s public Advocate Jumaane Williams, the number of mental health crisis centers has declined by half since 2019, while the number of mobile mental crisis response teams has also fallen. The report found that police officers are not receiving sufficient mental crisis response training, yet are still the main option in responding to mental health emergencies.
“The ongoing reckoning with how we define and produce public safety has also put a spotlight on the need to holistically address this crisis as an issue of health, rather than simply law enforcement,” Williams wrote in a letter to the mayor, reported by The New York Times.
Mayor Eric Adams has not ignored the city’s mental health crisis, nor its potential effect on public safety, NYT added in its report. In October, he and Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a broad plan calling for 1,200 additional overtime officer shifts each day on the subway, two new “transition to home” units for street and subway homeless with severe mental illnesses, and two new dedicated 25-bed units at psychiatric centers.
The mayor said last month that mental illness was the primary reason that crime in the subway has increased by almost 40 percent from last year.
According to the City’s Health Department, overall, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented substantial mental health challenges and stressors to New Yorkers. Social isolation, trauma and social and economic insecurity during the pandemic have contributed to rising mental health needs. Symptoms of anxiety and depression continued to be elevated compared with pre-pandemic levels, and call volume to NYC Well has increased, according to Health Department data. Available suicide death data from 2021 remains consistent with suicide death numbers in years prior to the pandemic.
“The Health Department continues to remind New Yorkers that free, confidential mental health support is available through the City’s mental health helpline NYC Well by calling 888-NYC-WELL or by visiting nyc.gov/nycwell. New Yorkers dialing from NYC area codes can also access help through the new National Suicide Prevention Hotline by dialing 988,” the health department statement added.