Ohio suicides increased in 2021, according to new Ohio Department of Health report

The number of suicide deaths in Ohio increased 8% to 1,766 deaths from 2020 to 2021 — meaning five Ohioans die by suicide every day.

By: - June 2, 2023 4:50 am

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This story is about suicide. If you or someone you know needs support now, call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org.

The number of Ohioans who died by suicide increased in 2021, according to new data from the Ohio Department of Health. 

Suicide deaths in Ohio increased 8% to 1,766 deaths from 2020 to 2021 — meaning five Ohioans die by suicide every day, according to ODH’s Suicide Demographics and Trends 2021 report

“Suicide is a human tragedy, and any increase is of course deeply concerning,” ODH Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said in a news release. “All of us, though, need to pay attention and recognize when someone is struggling and know where they can turn to for help.”

Suicide was the 12th-leading cause of death in Ohio and second-leading cause of death for Ohioans ages 10-34 years in 2021, according to the report.

Data visualization made with Flourish


Females accounted for 19% of suicide deaths and men accounted for 81% of suicide deaths. Firearms were involved in more than half of all suicide deaths. 

Adults ages 25-44 had the highest rate of suicide, men ages 25-34 had the highest number of suicide and women ages 45-54 had the highest number of suicide, according to the ODH report. 

White non-Hispanic men and women saw the largest increase in suicide rates (7%), according to the report. 

Cuyahoga County had the most suicides with 172, and Ashtabula County had the highest rate of suicides with 26.6. 

Tony Coder, executive director of the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation, said the increase in suicides is related to the mental health toll people experienced from the COVID-19 pandemic. Globally, anxiety and depression increased 25% during the first year of the pandemic, according to a 2022 report by the World Health Organization.

“We knew that suicide numbers were going to be impacted in a way that we didn’t want them to,” he said. “We knew that there was going to be a mental health surge after the shutdown.”

Coder said staying connected to people is a big way to support people who are struggling with mental health and not being afraid to ask someone directly if they are thinking about suicide. 

“You’re not going to put any idea into their head,” he said. “Research continues to show that actually asking the question of someone that you think is contemplating suicide … actually relieves the burden on a person and has them discuss the idea as opposed to keeping it in.”

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline moved to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline in July and there was an average of 8,670 calls from Ohio area codes from July to December 2022, according to the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services

During that same time, there was an average of 1,452 texts and 1,916 chats per month to 988 from Ohio area codes. 

Mental health services

Mental health was a priority in Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s proposed budget. He allocated $46.5 million to continue operation of the 988 hotline, $8 million to continue and expand Ohio’s 2020 Suicide Prevention Plan, and $100 million to create the State of Ohio Action for the Resiliency (SOAR) Network. 

“We must not accept that mental illness and addiction are inevitable,” DeWine said in January during his State of the State address.  “We must face the fact that no Ohioan will ever fully live up to their potential or be able to lead purposeful and meaningful lives if their mental illness remains in the shadows and untreated.”

He also signed $175 million in mental health expenditures into law in January. 

The House’s version of the budget kept the 988 hotline funding at $46.5 million, but the $8 million to expand the Suicide Prevention Plan was cut to $3.5 million and the SOAR network was cut completely.

Coder is hopeful the Senate will reinstate the $8 million that was in DeWine’s original budget for the state’s Suicide Prevention Plan. 

“We are literally in the middle of a mental health storm,” he said. “And if we don’t allocate resources, and if we don’t do a lot more on prevention, we’re never going to get caught up with treatment. And we’re sure not going to get caught up with folks going into recovery.”

June 30 is the deadline for the final budget for appropriations to be effective on July 1, the first day of the new fiscal year. Once the bill goes through the Senate, it will go to conference committee before heading to DeWine’s desk.

Follow OCJ Reporter Megan Henry on Twitter.



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Megan Henry
Megan Henry

Megan Henry is a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal and has spent the past five years reporting in Ohio on various topics including education, healthcare, business and crime. She previously worked at The Columbus Dispatch, part of the USA Today Network.