Super Bowl champion Tom Brady criticised for Instagram post downplaying Covid death toll

Football star made false claim suicides outpacing coronavirus deaths

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Wednesday 28 October 2020 14:13
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Super Bowl champion Tom Brady has been corrected after claiming on Instagram that the number of deaths by suicide is outpacing the number of deaths from Covid-19.

PolitiFact examined the claim by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback and found the statement false.

Mr Brady wrote: “More suicide deaths than coronavirus deaths last two months. So wash your hands and wear your masks but don’t forget to be nice to people and look after yourself.”

The post had a large “Truth” stamp in the corner.

In an average month, approximately 4,000 people die from suicide according to the National Centre for Health Statistics.

In the past 30 days, almost 22,000 have died from Covid-19.

PolitiFact, run by the Poynter Institute, is dedicated to combatting misinformation and reached out to Mr Brady to ask what the source of the information was — he did not respond.

As the post was an Instagram story, it had expired or been taken down by the time that PolitiFact published the correction of the claim.

Social media users had already captured screenshots of the post.

Some pointed out that it echoes statements made by Donald Trump and conservatives that restrictions to stop the spread of the coronavirus were causing an economic situation that would lead to mass suicides. 

They have been accused downplaying the severity of a virus that has killed almost 230,000 Americans.

Mental health practitioners acknowledge that disruption in daily life, whether through social isolation or the loss of jobs — as seen during the pandemic — does increase the risk of suicide,  however, Mr  Brady’s statement takes this to an extreme.

There is no data on deaths by suicide for 2020, and preliminary data for 2019 shows a decline in cases.

"For this to be right, you would need a rise in the suicide rate that is just impossible," president of the American Association of Suicidology Dr Jonathan Singer told Politifact.

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), or email jo@samaritans.org.

In the US, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255, or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org

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