REGIONAL- After a brief dip during the pandemic in 2020, a 20-year trend of increasing suicides in Minnesota resumed in 2021 and 2022, according to data released by the Minnesota Department of …
REGIONAL- After a brief dip during the pandemic in 2020, a 20-year trend of increasing suicides in Minnesota resumed in 2021 and 2022, according to data released by the Minnesota Department of Health.
The preliminary data from 2022 indicates the suicide rate reached 14.3 incidents per 100,000, which translates to 835 deaths statewide. That’s close to the previous highest suicide rate of 14.4, set in 2019, according to the newly released MDH data brief. A total of 808 Minnesotans took their own life in 2021.
Death by suicide has been one of several reasons why overall life expectancy may be declining, particularly among male Minnesotans. From 2011 to 2021, suicide, or intentional self-harm, was the eighth leading cause of death in Minnesota.
“Suicide is a significant public health issue that involves the tragic loss of human life,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Brooke Cunningham. “It is important for us to take a comprehensive public health approach to suicide prevention that supports connectedness, belonging and protections from lethal means.”
While race and ethnicity data is not yet available for 2022, in 2021, the American Indian community had a higher suicide rate in Minnesota than other races or ethnicities – the highest rate for American Indians since at least 2000. Tribal representatives have noted how historical traumas live on today as suicide risk factors, such as loss of indigenous knowledge and identity and economic hardship. Factors protecting members from suicide include positive connections through cultural activities, recognition of tribal sovereignty, a sense of purpose, nature exploration, healthy eating, and reconnecting with traditional practices such as smudging, talking circles, ceremonies and Indigenous medicines.
Latino and Hispanic Minnesotans had more suicide deaths in 2021 than the previous five years.
Suicide rates have also been consistently higher in rural Minnesota, with about a third more suicides than in the state’s metro areas. Over the past two decades, national data shows that suicide rates have increased by 46 percent in non-metro areas compared to 27 percent in metro areas.
The data also reinforces past trends that suicide is more prevalent among men. Male Minnesotans had a suicide rate four times higher than females in 2022. Meanwhile, women accounted for 65 percent of hospital-treated self-harm or suicide attempts in 2016-2020.
These patterns are likely related to the lethal and predominant role that firearms play in the death of males by suicide. Nationally, in 2019, 20,725 men committed suicide using a firearm, compared to 3,216 women. Suicides account for over half of all firearm deaths, 54 percent, and over half of all suicides involve a firearm, 53 percent.
An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that more than twice as many suicides by firearms occur in states with the fewest gun laws.
One effort to reduce suicide deaths by firearms is Counseling on Access to Lethal Means (CALM) training. Available free online and recommended for mental health and health care professionals, the two-hour training promotes strategies for removing or reducing access to the methods people use, such as firearms and medication. Gun locks are one strategy for safely storing a firearm and reducing access to lethal means for someone having suicidal thoughts. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety is giving away gun locks as part of its Safe and Secure Minnesota campaign. You can request up to three free locks at SafeAndSecureMN.org. DPS has given away more than 50,000 locks since last August.
According to MDH, Minnesota’s suicide prevention efforts are based on the evidence that suicides are preventable, mental illness is treatable and recovery is possible. The department’s newly released 2023-2027 Minnesota State Suicide Prevention Plan calls for a comprehensive approach including improving infrastructure, increasing collaboration and building capacity for local communities to implement strategies in prevention, early intervention, crisis intervention and support after a death by suicide. The plan supports suicide prevention efforts such as the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, suicide prevention trainings in communities and the Zero Suicide initiative, which is a framework to improve the suicide and self-harm care within health care and behavioral health clinics and organizations.
Help for those in mental health crisis is available at any time by calling or texting the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
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