New UDoH study measures impact of pandemic on Utahn’s mental, behavior health

The Utah Department of Health. Photo:

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Jan. 28, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — A newly released study by the Utah Department of Health on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on Utahns’ mental and behavioral health shows some surprising results.

The impact on Utahns, at least in the short term, has not been significant in terms of increases in suicides, mental distress, or drug overdoses.

“The pandemic has impacted Utahns in significant ways, yet this report shows Utahns are resilient,” Gov. Spencer Cox said in a prepared statement. “Despite these difficult times, there is hope.

“We are not powerless to the difficult circumstances around us. I encourage all Utahns to continue to lift each other up and provide the support we all need during these challenging times.”

The report shows deaths from drug overdoses remained stable throughout the first 39 weeks of 2020, were consistent with drug overdose death counts in 2019, and were lower than drug overdose death deaths in 2018.

“Years of statewide overdose prevention efforts have led to significant declines in opioid overdose death rates since 2016,” Cox said. “It’s clear the efforts of prevention experts, policy makers, healthcare providers, state and local government officials, and every day citizens have helped us adapt and continue providing services to those in crisis.”

Preliminary data also indicates “the overall trend of suicide ideation (thoughts) and suicide attempts have remained stable in Utah,” the statement says.

The number of suicide deaths did not increase in the first 39 weeks of 2020 (the latest data available); the number of suicide deaths in Utah is consistent with the previous three years.

“We have seen modestly declining suicide rates in Utah since 2017-2018, despite suicide rates continuing to rise across the country,” said Amy Mikkelsen, suicide prevention coordinator at the UDoH. “And, fortunately, the pandemic doesn’t appear to have impacted our progress.”

Click links at the bottom of this article to read the full report in English or a summary in Spanish.

Other key findings from the report:

The number of drug overdoses reported to emergency departments remained stable through the first 50 weeks of 2020.

  • Syringe service utilization increased in the first eight months of 2020 (compared to 2019), but this increase is likely due to expansion of services across the state. Syringe services are an essential service that continues to be used during the pandemic.
  • There was no significant difference in the rate of Utah adults reporting frequent mental distress from March through August of 2019 compared with the same time period in 2020 (13.5% and 13.4%, respectively).
  • Calls to Utah’s branch of the Suicide Prevention Crisis Line (800-273-8255) increased throughout the first 10 months of 2020, but this growth is similar to increases in previous years.

While there isn’t information available on an increased volume of domestic violence related calls on a statewide level, anecdotal evidence from local law enforcement and victim service agencies seem to indicate an escalation of family violence, the UDoH statement says.

“This data suggests that interventions and treatment during the pandemic have remained as effective as in previous years, even in the face of a sudden shift to primarily telehealth and services,” said Kimberly Myers, assistant director of the Utah Department of Human Services Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.

“If you are struggling, get help. It’s safe to go to your doctor, urgent care, primary care provider, pharmacist, and therapist. Nearly every health care provider has the ability to meet with patients virtually.”

Click the following link to read the report in English.



View the following image to read a HDoH summary in Spanish.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here