Our opinion: All voices needed in suicide awareness

Published 5:27 pm Tuesday, May 30, 2023

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Last week, the Minnesota Department of Health released a report indicating a rise in suicide rates in both 2021 and 2022. 

The report shows in final data that there were 808 suicide deaths in 2021, while preliminary numbers show 831 suicides in 2022. These numbers came after a short dip during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s been a well-known fact that over the last two decades, suicide rates have been climbing across the nation. It was reported by Minnesota Public Radio’s Michelle Wiley, that the state saw a high in 2019, when suicides reached 14.4 per 100,000. In comparison, the rate was near that in 2022 at 14.3 per 100,000.

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“Suicide is a significant public health issue that involves the tragic loss of human life,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Brooke Cunningham in a statement. “It is important for us to take a comprehensive public health approach to suicide prevention that supports connectedness, belonging and protections from lethal means.”

It’s not entirely clear whether these newer numbers are directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but nevertheless, the climb in suicides should be casting a newly restored effort to what can be done to curb these numbers.

The answer to this question is complicated as mental health has come to dominate headlines over and over again. In a world as contentious as the one we live in currently, there is certainly no shortage of reasons people are combating mental health.

Fortunately, the state has installed long term plans to help deal with the crisis, including a comprehensive plan reaching through 2027, which focuses, in short, on two main goals:

• Improving infrastructure that prevent people from having suicidal experiences.

• Improve the lives of those struggling.

These are key in breaking through and hopefully diminishing these numbers. An important part of these two goals is communication. People suffering from mental health are encouraged to reach out to places like the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline via call or text.

But it’s also up to those of us who are seeing someone close to us suffering to ask the all important question: “Are you all right?” 

Suicide and mental health are tough subjects to tackle. It’s uncomfortable and can bring even more stress to the situation, but we have to be willing to talk and to take these steps. 

More than ever, we need each other.