News Release
August 30, 2013

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Increase in adult suicides prompts call for greater prevention efforts

With the most recent available data showing Minnesota having the highest rate of suicide in more than a decade, state officials are highlighting the importance of knowing suicide warning signs and that mental illnesses are treatable and suicides preventable.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) today released its most recent suicide data collected from 2011 death certificates. The data show a 13 percent increase in the number of suicides, from 606 in 2010 to 684 suicides in 2011. Minnesota's suicide rate of 12.4 per 100,000 residents in 2011 was the highest since the early 1990s. Most of the increase in numbers from 2010 to 2011 is from men in their middle years, with the greatest increase in numbers for those 55-59 years of age. The suicide rate among seniors over 65 also increased in 2011 from a rate of 10.2 to 13.8 per 100,000. Youth suicides under 25 years of age saw a small increase from 5 per 100,000 to 5.7 per 100,000.

"Today's news clarifies that we must do more to connect with those who are suffering and contemplating suicide," said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger. "This is especially important because we know suicides are preventable. Most people who consider suicide do not kill themselves. They find hope and help."

Minnesota's prevention efforts are based on the evidence that suicides are preventable and mental illness is treatable. Key strategies include training health care professionals to identify individuals at risk for suicidal behavior, to assess them for risk and refer them to evidence-based treatment. Therapy and medications can help, and treating underlying conditions such as mental illness and substance abuse also reduces the risk of suicide.

"Every person lost is a life filled with potential and possibility cut short," said Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson. "As the state agency responsible for statewide mental health treatment we need to make sure that help is available for people who need it. We made some good strides this past session by increasing mental health grants for children, increasing the number of mental health crisis teams and supporting innovative programs like Text4Life, but it's important we continue to focus on this critical issue."

The 2011 figures follow Minnesota's long-term trends of steady suicide rates among youth and rising rates among adults 25 to 64. Minnesota's increase in adult suicides also mirrors a national trend. In May, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the annual, age-adjusted suicide rate among people aged 35–64 increased 28.4 percent, from 13.7 per 100,000 in 1999 to 17.6 per 100,000 in 2010. More details can be found online at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6217a1.htm.

The CDC noted that while most suicide research and prevention efforts focus on youth and older adults, recent data underscore the need for prevention strategies serving adults aged 35–64. According to the CDC, prevention efforts are particularly important for baby boomers because of that generation's size, history of elevated suicide rates, and movement toward older adulthood, the period associated with the highest suicide rates.

More research is needed to understand what is driving the increase among Minnesota adults. While some experts have suggested the recent economic downturn may be one contributing factor, suicide is complex. There are often multiple contributing factors such as mental illness, substance abuse, history of trauma and impulsive behavior. A persons' risk of suicide may increase with a painful loss, social isolation, feelings of hopelessness or being a burden to others, and not asking for help. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study released by MDH this past winter found that more than half of all Minnesotans have had traumatic experiences early in life, and research has shown traumatic experiences early in life are associated with a higher rate of suicide attempts.

Based on Minnesota's data, public health leaders are pushing to update and increase prevention activities with specific emphasis on high-risk groups such as middle-aged adults. To make progress in this area, MDH, DHS,and other state agencies are partnering with SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices for Education) and other community-based agencies and advocacy groups to form the Minnesota Suicide Prevention Planning Task Force. Task force responsibilities will include updating the state's 2007 suicide prevention plan to incorporate new strategies targeting high- risk groups such as adults, as well as recommendations from the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. As the new plan is developed, the task force will leverage existing suicide prevention efforts such as the DHS mental health and crisis services, DHS and private crisis phone lines, the TXT4Life initiative, and MDH and local community suicide prevention efforts.

"Everyone in Minnesota has a role to play in preventing suicides," said SAVE Executive Director Dr. Dan Reidenberg. "By knowing the warning signs and what to do if you are concerned about someone, you can save a life."

11 Warning Signs of Suicide (the more a person exhibits, the greater the risk):

    1. 1. Talking about wanting to die.
      2. Looking for a way to kill oneself.
      3. Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose.
      4. Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
      5. Talking about being a burden to others.
      6. Increasing the use of alcohol or other drugs.
      7. Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly.
      8. Sleeping too little or too much.
      9. Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
      10. Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
      11. Displaying extreme mood swings.

    Tips for those concerned about a friend or loved one:

      • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
      • Do not leave the person alone.
      • Remove firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
      • Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.

      -MDH-


Media inquiries:

Scott Smith
MDH Communications
651-201-5806