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Bad news on state suicide rates

With more and more Minnesotans hounded to the grave by the “black dog of depression,” as Winston Churchill put it, Minnesota health officials are highlighting the importance of knowing suicide warning signs and that mental illnesses are treatable and suicides preventable.

The most recent available data shows Minnesota with the highest rate of suicide in more than a decade, according to data released recently by the Minnesota Department of Health.

The data, collected from 2011 death certificates, show a 13 percent increase in the number of suicides, from 606 in 2010 to 684 suicides in 2011.

Minnesota’s suicide rate of 12.4 per 100,000 residents in 2011 was the highest since the early 1990s.

Most of the increase in numbers from 2010 to 2011 is from men in their middle years, with the greatest increase in numbers for those 55-59 years of age.

The suicide rate among seniors over 65 also increased in 2011 from a rate of 10.2 to 13.8 per 100,000. Youth suicides under 25 years of age saw a small increase from 5 per 100,000 to 5.7 per 100,000.

The bad news means more must be done to “connect with those who are suffering and contemplating suicide,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger.

“This is especially important because we know suicides are preventable. Most people who consider suicide do not kill themselves. They find hope and help.”

Minnesota’s prevention efforts are based on the evidence that suicides are preventable and mental illness is treatable.

Everyone has a role to play in preventing suicides. By knowing the warning signs and what to do if you are concerned about someone, you can save a life.

Watch for these warning signs of suicide (the more a person exhibits, the greater the risk):

1. Talking about wanting to die.

2. Looking for a way to kill oneself.

3. Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose.

4. Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.

5. Talking about being a burden to others.

6. Increasing the use of alcohol or other drugs.

7. Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly.

8. Sleeping too little or too much.

9. Withdrawing or feeling isolated.

10. Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.

11. Displaying extreme mood swings.

Tips for those concerned about a friend or loved one:

Call the Becker County-White Earth crisis line at 1-877-380-3621.

Do not leave the person alone. Remove firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.

Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.