Deaths by suicide in Minnesota decreased in 2020 compared to 2019, according to the Minnesota Department of Health's new preliminary report.
The report shows 723 Minnesotans died by suicide in 2020, which is down from the record-high 830 suicide deaths in Minnesota in 2019.
“It’s a good sign to see that number drop, but 723 preventable deaths are 723 too many,” MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in Wednesday's news release. “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.”
While the number of people who died by suicide was down in 2020, the number of preventable deaths attributable to alcohol and drug overdoses increased last year, with health officials citing the COVID-19 pandemic as a likely factor in the increases.
Suicide rates in Minnesota and nationwide have been steadily increasing for the past 20 years, and 2020 marks the sixth straight year in which more than 700 Minnesotans have died by suicide, MDH says.
The majority of suicides (77%) in Minnesota last year involved males, which indicates they're at greater risk of dying by suicide than females.
And last year, the age of those who died by suicide shifted older than in 2019. Fewer people age 24 and younger died by suicide in 2020 than the year prior, with 98 suicides reported in the age group compared to 124 in 2019.
MDH said the number of suicides of people age 25-64 was also down, wile deaths by suicide among people 65 and older increased, up from 123 in 2019 to 147 in 2020.
“2020 was a year of extraordinary challenges, and the impact to Minnesotans is one we will need to explore on a deeper level,” Stefan Gingerich, a suicide epidemiologist with MDH said in the release. “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.”
Minnesota's suicide prevention efforts are based on the belief that they are preventable, mental illness is treatable and recovery is possible, the release says.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To speak to someone, call 1-800-273-8255.