Iowa appears to have bucked a national trend of rising suicide rates in recent years. While more people across the country took their own lives in 2021 compared to 2020, a report from a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization finds suicide rates dropped during that period in Iowa. Brandon Reavis is the senior government relations manager at Trust for America’s Health.
“We saw a three-percent drop in Iowa for overall suicide rates,” Reavis says, “and the overall increase in rates for the national level was four-percent.”
Reavis says it’s hard to specify why Iowa’s suicide rate fell while most other states saw an increase.
“It’s difficult to draw conclusions about larger trends based on the rates for single years,” Reavis says, “but those variations can sometimes be the result of increased social services or mental health services in schools, also the changing rates of addiction on the state level.”
The group’s report shows a dramatic 71-percent increase in the youth suicide rate between 2010 and 2021 nationwide, and did not offer specifics for Iowa for that timeframe. Reavis says that increase can be due to all sorts of factors, including housing instability, job losses for parents, and grief, especially during the pandemic.
“The use of social media can have an impact on youth mental health,” Reavis says. “Just this week, the surgeon general released an advisory cautioning about the profound risks to mental health that social media use can pose. We also know that young people are struggling with a lot of the same issues that adults are struggling with, including climate change and racial injustice.”
The report shows 549 Iowans died by suicide in 2021, which is a drop of three-percent from the year before. It also shows there were 608 alcohol-induced deaths in Iowa that same year, an increase of 14-percent, while there were 475 drug overdoses statewide, an increase of seven-percent.
“In the report, we stress the need to implement policies and programs to prevent and mitigate adverse childhood experiences,” Reavis says, “which we know can have a profound impact on the long-term risk of children developing addiction issues and other mental health conditions later on.”
The report also calls for an increase in funding of mental health services in schools. See the full “Pain in the Nation 2023” report here.