More than 19,300 Minnesotans have died by suicide in the past 36 years, and rates have steadily crept upward since the turn of the century.
About 750 of those Minnesotans died by suicide just last year -- about 2 per day -- according to recent statistics from the Minnesota Department of Health. This was slightly more than the year before and a 70 percent increase over the last couple decades.
These increases in suicide deaths can’t be explained by population growth because the suicide rate has also increased at a similar pace.
Minnesota’s suicide rate last year was 13.5 deaths per 100,000 and has risen 4 points since 2000, slightly outpacing the national rate over the same time period.
“Traditionally we’ve had a lower suicide rate in Minnesota than nationally, but recently we’ve started to catch up,” said Melissa Heinen, an epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health’s violent death reporting system.
Minnesota’s suicide rate had fluctuated since 1981, before beginning a steady decline ending in the state’s three-decade low in 1999.
After this, it started to increase. While there have been slight year-to-year declines in Minnesota suicides over the time period, the trend line climbs noticeably.
Those dying by suicide continue to be overwhelmingly white, middle-aged and male. Nearly 80 percent of 2016’s suicide deaths were men, and the rate among whites is more than double the rates of other races and ethnicities.
The number of female suicide deaths has increased, though, averaging about 130 per year across the 2006 to 2016 timespan – almost double the recorded suicides among women in 2000.
While suicide is the second leading cause of death for those aged 10 to 24, rates for nearly every age bracket have risen overall the past two decades, especially among those 35 to 64 years old.
Heinen said suicide prevention efforts in Minnesota aren’t funded according to the scope of the problem and don’t target demographics that need it most, which are middle-aged white men, often living in greater Minnesota. Instead, state and national efforts are mostly focused on reducing suicides among the young.
“You shouldn’t have to take away from youth prevention to fund adult prevention,” Heinen said.
Firearms are still the most common method used by those who take their own lives, and suicide deaths via gunshot have become even more common the last couple decades. The next most common methods are suffocation and poisoning.
Social isolation, unemployment, health problems, substance abuse, personal loss and a sense of being a burden and other factors can all contribute to suicidal thoughts. The Minnesota Department of Health has increased its use of data in recent years to help better understand what’s driving the increase in suicides.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.
The Crisis Text Line is 741-741.