University of Minnesota researchers released a report last month showing an increased rate of suicide in Minnesota and around the country. Using their findings, researchers hope to increase awareness on the rising suicide rates and help inform other work on the subject.
Although Minnesota’s suicide rate is the 14th lowest in the country, the state’s rate increased by 56 percent from 2000 to 2017, according to the report. For comparison, the national rate increased by around 35 percent in the same time period.
The report was created by researchers from the State Health Access Data Assistance Center, a multidisciplinary health research center focusing on state policy in the University’s School of Public Health. One of the center's goals is to provide data that can inform or evaluate state policy decisions.
Other organizations have done related research before, but these researchers took a different approach by comparing trends among states.
"We also look at trends and differences across the states since state health policy is really kind of the focus of the work that we do," said Colin Planalp, a lead author of the report and senior research fellow of SHADAC.
Death by suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, according to Marizen Ramirez, an associate professor in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences in the University's School of Public Health.
The report found that all but three states — Delaware, Maryland and Nevada — saw statistically significant increases in suicide rates during the studied time period.
"Without recognizing that suicide is a problem and a growing problem, there's no way that our country and our state can really get a handle on the problem and reverse this trend," Planalp said.
For the report, researchers pulled together data to study what is happening at the national level for different demographic groups.
Ramirez, who was not involved with the report, emphasized the importance of prevention work to reduce the increasing suicide rates.
"We are in the world of prevention, and there's much that needs to be done in terms of identifying effective prevention strategies that really can support people who are at risk for suicide," Ramirez said.
Ezra Golberstein, an associate professor in the Division of Health Policy and Management, said it is important to make sure mental health services are more readily available to people when they need them.
"I think that there are some things in general that are good things to do, like trying to improve access to mental health services for everybody," Golberstein said.
He said in order to build state policies that address the increase in suicide rates, researchers need to understand the causes of these trends.
Having policies, such as making mental health services more accessible, is good in general and may have the additional benefit of potentially slowing down the increasing rates, Golberstein said.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255