CNN anchor Jake Tapper is taking a rhetorical beating for helping spread a report that wrongly suggests suicides have surged during the pandemic.

“Suicide figures are up. Could 2 followers please copy and re-post this tweet? We’re trying to demonstrate that someone is always listening. Call 1-800-273-8255 (USA hotline) Just two. Any two. Copy, not retweet,” Tapper wrote Thursday in a Tweet to his 3 million followers that was retweeted more than 8,000 times and liked by more than 15,000 by Friday.

The declaration was nearly identical to a widespread social media post circulating in recent days that claims “suicide figures are up 200% since lockdown,” while giving the same phone number to the federal government’s suicide-prevention hotline.

The tweet wrongly claiming a 200% rise in suicide first surfaced in June in the UK, when the nonprofit Sane simply reported calls to its suicide-prevention hotline were up 200%, the BBC explained.

The viral posts resurfaced across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook in recent days, during a worldwide spike in COVID cases and return of lockdowns.

When critics pointed out the suicide claim had been debunked, Tapper clapped back: “I took that stuff out.”

“But more importantly the main reason I sent the tweet was to provide a resource for folks who might need help,” he said, referring to the phone number.

Tapper was even lectured online by experts.

“Jake, I’m a fan of yours. But I’m wondering where this statement comes from … We’ve seen data that suicidal thoughts may be up. But every dataset I’ve seen (including my own work) says actual attempts and completion didn’t go up, at least so far,” Jeremy Faust, a Harvard Medical School instructor and ER physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, replied.

Faust found that local health authorities actually recorded fewer suicides between March and May this year, at the height of COVID-19 lockdowns, compared to last year, the Washington Post reported.

Researchers identified similar trends internationally.

“Reports suggest either no rise in suicide rates (Massachusetts, USA; Victoria, Australia; England) or a fall (Japan, Norway) in the early months of the pandemic,” according to a study published Thursday in the British Medical Journal.

Reports of anxiety and depression are on the rise this year, however, and experts warn suggestions of a suicide spike could be triggering.

“It is also dangerous — alarming claims can distress vulnerable people and put them at risk,” Louis Appleby, a psychiatry professor at the University of Manchester, told the BBC.



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