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Minnesota suicide rates are rising, disproportionately affecting men and Native Americans

(Courtesy of Minnesota Department of Health)

This past year Minnesota came close to its highest ever recorded suicide rate, at 14.3 per 100,000 people. The record was 14.4 in 2019; due to population growth, the number of actual deaths in 2022 (estimated at 835) was actually higher than in 2019. The vast majority of those deaths were men.

According to the MDH, men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women due to the dominant role men have in gun access and use. In the new 2023-2027 suicide prevention plan, MDH is focusing on reducing access to firearms, as well as certain medications.

“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.”

The suicide prevention plan also urges the public to make use of the 998 suicide and crisis lifeline – a universal dialing code which was launched in July 2022 – as well as suicide prevention trainings, and the Zero Suicide toolkit.

While most communities of color have lower suicide rates than the white population, the suicide rate within the Native American community is significantly higher, at 40.1 per 100,000 people.

To reduce suicide rates, tribal partners have suggested MDH focus on rebuilding positive associations to native identity in Minnesota. Indian Health Board Minneapolis’ Director of Behavioral Health, Christina Garrison-Diehn, says historical traumas and systemic barriers are having disproportionate effects on the psychological health of Minnesota’s Indigenous communities.

“If you look at historical context, from genocide to colonization, as a result, the trauma is largely in the separation of culture, especially in health and wellness traditions,” said Garrison-Diehn. “But there is a lot of resilience here, and while some Western methods are helpful, we focus on reconnecting our clients to those cultural roots.”

In Minnesota, suicide rates have been steadily increasing since 2001. Suicide was the eighth leading cause of death in Minnesota from 2011-2021. And while Minnesota saw high suicide rates amongst young and middle aged adults last year, preliminary data also shows a startling increase in suicides among Minnesotans 85 years of age and older. The National Council On Aging says loneliness is the top cause of suicides amongst the elderly. Other reasons include grief from the loss of a loved one, loss of self sufficiency, chronic illness and pain, cognitive impairment, and financial troubles.

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