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Preventable deaths by suicide decreased in 2020

The Minnesota Department of Health has released the new Minnesota Suicide Mortality, Preliminary 2020 Report (PDF) showing that 723 Minnesotans died by suicide in Minnesota. This is a decrease from 830 in 2019, which was a record number.

Courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Health

For the past 20 years, the number of suicides in Minnesota has steadily increased, mirroring patterns across the United States. In fact, 2020 marks the sixth straight year in which more than 700 Minnesotans died by suicide.

“It’s a good sign to see that number drop, but 723 preventable deaths are 723 too many,” said Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm in a press release Tuesday. “We are not yet sure what impacts the COVID-19 pandemic had on this trend, but it is clear that we must continue to support people and communities to address the causes of suicide.”

Death by suicide has been one of several reasons why overall life expectancy may be declining. Other factors include alcohol-attributable deaths and drug overdose deaths. Although suicides declined in 2020, both alcohol-attributable deaths and drug overdose deaths increased in 2020. All three have been increasing since 2000.

Courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Health

Minnesota’s prevention efforts

Minnesota’s suicide prevention efforts are based on the belief that suicides are preventable, mental illness is treatable, and recovery is possible.

“2020 was a year of extraordinary challenges, and the impact to Minnesotans is one we will need to explore on a deeper level,” said Stefan Gingerich, a suicide epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health. “While we are encouraged by the reduction in deaths by suicide this past year, given the high number of suicides each year we must remain vigilant and proactive in our prevention efforts.”

One initiative launched in 2020 was a virtual training program for all educators and school staff. The training, called Kognito At-Risk, walks educators through realistic scenarios and coaches them on how to engage with youth and help them get support they need. It is free, and available to all Minnesota schools and districts, thanks to state funding through the Minnesota Legislature. See Teacher and School Employee Mental Health Training.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To speak with a certified listener, anytime, any day, call 1-800-273-8255.

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