The death of Stanford University soccer star Katie Meyer has heightened awareness of what might be America’s next major public health catastrophe. Suicide, particularly among young people, is on the verge of becoming an epidemic in post-pandemic America.
Suicide is the tenth-largest cause of mortality in the United States, accounting for about 47,500 deaths. In 2019, 45,979 fatalities in the United States were officially ascribed to suicide. Between 1999 and 2020, almost 840,000 people died through suicide. Suicide risk has been enhanced by social isolation, economic degradation and familial pressures.
Moreover, because of the higher standard of proof required in many jurisdictions to designate death as a suicide on an official death certificate, the number of suicides in the United States may be significantly higher. Social stigma, misclassification and underreporting as accidental death reduce suicide reports. Add in the pandemic’s delayed consequences and we have a national calamity on our hands among our youth.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the third most significant cause of death among Americans aged 15 to 24. Suicide rates among young males have quadrupled during the 1980s, while rates among young women have doubled. Suicide rates may be steady or drop during a natural or global crisis, but they will always climb following.
Therefore, even the toughest among us can have a difficult time in life. It implies that once American culture, families and communities resume normalcy following lockdowns and other pandemic mitigation measures, suicide prevention will be critical. Meyer’s father, Steve, says, “It may be difficult for some folks to stand up.”
“We must be attentive, especially in the coming years, about checking in with our friends and family members who, like Katie Meyer, may appear to be okay on the surface but are fact fighting terribly on the inside,” President Biden adds. “Let Katie Meyer’s death empower you to be the attitude, as Katie would say, even if that means asking for help.”