'Clusters of Death' on the rise in Minnesota


"It's frustrating and difficult," said Melissa Heinen, suicide epidemiologist at the Department of Health, about this trend. "It's not just individuals who are dying, they are struggling communities and bereaved families, but we know we can make a difference."

Minnesota is far from the only one suffering from an increase in what some social scientists have called "the death of despair". But Heinen and colleagues in the health department who were interviewed by phone on Monday rejected the label, using the term "clusters of the dead".

"Where we are seeing an increase in the number of suicides, we often see an increase in the number of overdose deaths in the same communities, as well as alcohol, etc.," said Heinen. "There is something in the living conditions of people that increases these deaths."

Dr. Amy Greminger, a physician at Essentia Health and an assistant professor on the Duluth campus of the University of Minnesota's Faculty of Medicine, said the community in general was a missing element.

"I personally wonder if our lack of relationships with each other and with community members, if our migration to the Internet and less interpersonal relationships does not partially destroy what makes us who we are," he said. she said. "We are social beings."

We also need to do a better job of providing people with access to mental health services, "said Greminger.

Clusters do not affect everyone equally. Nate Wright, chief epidemiologist of drugs and opioids at the state's Department of Health, said the opioid overdose rate was higher in St. Louis County than elsewhere in the state. Suicide and alcohol-related death rates are also higher in northeastern Minnesota than in other regions, he said.

Greater Minnesota has higher suicide rates than the metropolitan area of ​​seven counties, Heinen said. And while the suicide rate in Minnesota is below the national average, its youth suicide rate is above average.

An encouraging sign is that the suicide rate among Minnesota women has decreased between 2016 and 2017. According to Heinen, this may be due to the fact that more services have been made available, and that women are more likely than men to use these services. But it is too early to draw these conclusions from an improvement of one year, she said.

Some racial groups are also more affected than others.

According to data from the Department of Health, the rate of drug overdose mortality among white Minnesotans in 2017 was 12.1 per 100,000 population. For African Americans, it was 27.6. For American Indians, it was 76.2 against 47.3 in 2015. "These types of disparities are unfortunately common to all Indian countries," wrote Jennifer Grabow, a member of Bois Forte and educator at the University of Minnesota Extension, at the helm of the Native American Resource of the State. and Resilience Team, in an email. "More rural tribal communities often face additional barriers to accessing services that combat health problems."

These problems can not be understood without understanding the historical trauma experienced by Native Americans, wrote Grabow.

Heinen touted the elements of Governor Tim Walz's proposed budget as a way to solve the problem. These include funds for a national suicide prevention network, "death reviews" to understand how overdose deaths have occurred, and funding for a "zero suicide" initiative designed to identify people at risk for suicide and prevent them from falling through the cracks they spend from one care phase to another.

"Our highest suicidal risk period for an individual is after leaving for suicide attempt," Heinen said.

The Zero Suicide initiative calls for a "warm transfer" so that someone ensures that the person at risk comes forward for referral and calls those who do not show up.

To get help

National suicide prevention lifeline

• (800) 273-8255

Crisis text line

• Text MN at 741741

South St. Louis Counties, Lake, Cook & Carlton / Fond du Lac Group

• (218) 623-1800 or (844) 772-4742

North St. Louis County / Strong Wood Band

• (218) 288-2100

Itasca County

• (218) 326-8565 or 211 *

Koochiching County

• • (800) 442-8565 or 211 *

* The services of St. Louis County 211 are not related to a crisis

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