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Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) walks onto the field after defeating the Las Vegas Raiders, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker) Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) walks onto the field after defeating the Las Vegas Raiders, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) walks onto the field after defeating the Las Vegas Raiders, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg October 27, 2020

No, suicides have not outpaced COVID-19 deaths

If Your Time is short

  • In an average month, about 4,000 people die from suicide.

  • In the month of June, over 19,000 people died from the coronavirus. In the past 30 days, nearly 22,000 people died.

  • Researchers say there is no way that the rate of suicide could increase so rapidly.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/

Super Bowl champion Tom Brady told his Instagram followers that suicide accounts for more death than COVID-19.

"More suicide deaths than coronavirus death past two months," Brady had on his Oct. 27 post. "So wash your hands and wear your mask, but don’t forget to be nice to people and yourself."

We reached out to Brady to learn where he got his numbers and did not hear back, but government numbers and experts show he’s wrong. 

There’s a general sense in the mental health community that disruptions in daily life, whether through social isolation or the loss of jobs, increases the risk of suicide. But Brady’s statement goes too far.

"There’s no way this can be true," said president of the American Association of Suicidology Dr. Jonathan Singer.

The most reliable statistics on suicides come from the National Center for Health Statistics and are from 2018. That year, there were 48,312 reported suicides, or an average of 4,026 every month.

Coronavirus deaths per month in the United States have been four times higher or more in recent months.

Going back to June — a month when deaths were falling — it was about 19,000. Now, it’s about 22,000 people per month.This chart shows the ebb and flow of deaths, measured as a seven-day rolling average.

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The point is, no matter which recent months you take, COVID-19 has killed far more people than suicide has per month historically.

Is something happening different in 2020? Well, we don’t know; and neither does Brady.

Singer noted that preliminary numbers of reported suicides for 2019 show a slight decline since 2018 in the suicide rate. And Singer said there are no national numbers that are current.

"Reporters ask us what is the effect of the coronavirus on suicides, and we don’t know," Singer said. "Because we don’t have the data."

Some counties track suicides nearly daily, but Singer said there is no way to estimate national trends based on limited local information.

"For this to be right, you would need a rise in the suicide rate that is just impossible," Singer said.

Our ruling

Brady said that in the past two months, there have been more deaths from suicide than COVID-19.

There are no national numbers that back this up. COVID-19 has been killing people at a rate that is at least three times greater than suicide historically.

A leading researcher we reached said even in the absence of firm data, it is impossible for the suicide rate to have increased to surpass the COVID-19 death rate.

We rate this claim False.

This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here, for more.

Our Sources

Tom Brady, Instagram, Oct. 27, 2020

Covid Tracking Project, US daily deaths: 7-day average, accessed Oct. 27, 2020

National Center for Health Statistics, Mortality: Quarterly provisional estimates, Oct. 21, 2020

National Center for Health Statistics, WONDER online database, accessed Oct. 27, 2020

QJM, The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on suicide rates, October 2020

Interview, Jonathan Singer, president, American Association of Suicidology, Oct. 27, 2020

Email exchange, Alexis O’Brien, public relations director, American Foundation for Suidice Prevention, Oct. 27, 2020

 

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No, suicides have not outpaced COVID-19 deaths

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