Minnesota’s suicide rate has increased by 50 percent between 2000 and 2017. It’s our state’s 8th leading cause of death, and we don’t really know why.
As alarming as that sounds, it’s just one of many notes in an equally alarming national trend. According to new research by the State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC), suicide rates are up across the the United States.
The national average increased 35 percent over the same 17-year period, and growth has only accelerated over the past few years. It’s “unlikely,” according to the report, that rates will “spontaneously stop or reverse in the near term.” Since 2000, more than 650,000 people have taken their lives nationwide.
There are noticeable patterns within that growth. People in rural areas, for example, continue to have higher rates than city dwellers. They’re also typically higher in men than in women, and working adults seem to be the most vulnerable age group. When you break it down by ethnicity, Native and white populations both had an outsized share of deaths.
But nearly every category of person or community has experienced a troubling increase.
“This is an area where public health researchers are paying an increased amount of attention,” senior research fellow Colin Planalp says. His biggest question after going through the findings is what’s really “driving” this issue.
That isn’t to say there isn't plenty of speculation. Some researchers have remarked on the similarity between the increase of suicides and the increase of what are called “deaths of despair” – like drug and alcohol overdoses.
“A lot of people have questioned whether there’s a similar cause,” Planalp says.
Then there’s the youth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a rise in suicide amoung children and teens. It’s the bracket least affected by suicide, but they’ve seen the largest rate increase since 2000.
Researchers theorize that perhaps social media could be the culprit, or parents’ hesitancy to allow children to use antidepressants, or some shockwave from the pain and loss caused by the opioid crisis.
If you’re experiencing depression and/or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text the Crisis Text Line by texting “TALK” to 741741.