Originally published 23 Oct 2020
IN LAST NIGHT’S presidential debate, Donald Trump repeated one of his more unorthodox reelection pitches. “People are losing their jobs,” he said. “They’re committing suicide. There’s depression, alcohol, drugs at a level that nobody’s ever seen before.”
It’s strange to hear an incumbent president declare, as an argument in his own favor, that a wave of suicides is occurring under his watch. It’s even stranger given that it’s not true. While Trump has been warning since March that any pandemic lockdowns would lead to “suicides by the thousands,” several studies from abroad have found that when governments imposed such restrictions in the early waves of the pandemic, there was no corresponding increase in these deaths. In fact, suicide rates may even have declined. A preprint study released earlier this week found that the suicide rate in Massachusetts didn’t budge even as that state imposed a strong stay-at-home order in March, April, and May.
Add this to the list of tragic ironies of the Trump era: The president is using the nonexistent link between lockdowns and suicide to justify an agenda that really could cause more people to take their own lives.