Suicides hit record highs in South Dakota in 2021, data shows
SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) – According to preliminary data released in April by South Dakota Suicide Prevention (SDSP), the state recorded a total of 198 suicide deaths in 2021, the highest number since the implementation of the monitoring.
A closer look at the data shows that 60 of the deaths occurred in the 1st quarter of 2021, with 45 in each of the 2nd and 3rd quarters of the year and 48 in the last quarter.
The SDSP data shows that although there have been some fluctuations, South Dakota’s suicide rate has been on the rise since 2011. In 2011, 125 suicides were recorded. The following year, there were 135. In 2015, there were 173, and in 2017 the state reached its previous record of 192 suicide deaths.
In 2018, 2016 and 2014 there were declines in numbers from the previous year, although the rate as a whole continued to climb. In 2019 and 2020, suicide deaths numbered 185, before increasing by 13 to 198 in 2021.
KELOLAND News spoke with Erik Muckey, CEO and Executive Director of Lost & Found, a comprehensive suicide prevention organizationto understand the factors behind this worrying increase in suicide deaths.
“Over the past few weeks, the South Dakota Suicide Prevention Executive Task Force has released interim data (Muckey notes that while the interim data is not yet finalized, it is generally considered fairly accurate. It also notes that deaths by suicide are often underreported.) – preliminary data showed that in South Dakota we had the highest number of recorded suicides in the history of the state,” Muckey said.
As for a potential reason for this increase in suicide deaths, the shadow of the pandemic hangs over the data.
“The preliminary data we have tells us that suicide rates and the number of deaths were particularly high during the last quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021,” Muckey said. “What we can probably infer from that is that there are pandemic factors at play.”
Among these factors cited by Muckey is the reduction of protective factors against suicide. These factors include social isolation, lack of access to mental health care, lack of community, and even mental health being a lower priority due to everything going on in the world at the time.
“You also probably saw an increase in risk factors,” Muckey said. “We’ve seen a lot of data coming out on substance use disorders and the rapid increase in that aspect – you can talk about dysfunction in the home or in the family, where you can be forced to be at home. house in a situation that is not particularly healthy – you could also consider this in the form of stress or trauma associated with the pandemic.
The period in which the highest suicide rates have been observed in recent years, from late 2020 to early 2021, was also the period in which South Dakota experienced one of its peaks in the pandemic. “You can look at that as a potential impact that would have increased that number,” Muckey said.
Although South Dakota’s suicide rate peaked in 2021, the problem isn’t simply isolated to the past few years. “The trend of suicide deaths in South Dakota has been on the rise since 2011, so we cannot ignore the fact that there are already elements in place that may be contributing to an increase in suicide deaths,” Muckey said.
Overall, from 125 in 2011 to 198 in 2021, the state saw a 58.4% increase in suicide deaths, or 73 more people killed. The pandemic didn’t play a role for the majority of those years, but other factors did.
“The leading cause of death in South Dakota among 10-19 year olds is suicide, and the second leading cause of death among 20-29 year olds is suicide,” Muckey said. “It’s no coincidence – it’s largely something you see nationally.”
Some of the factors in the overall increase in suicides mentioned by Muckey are social media, “not necessarily the tool itself, but disconnection from the community” – and a lack of access to mental health care. “We see this frequently on college campuses – there is a drastic demand for mental health care, but not enough services to provide all around.”
Muckey again also noted the prevalence of substance use disorders, which he notes the state is trying to combat in the areas of opioids and methamphetamine.
Another thing that cannot be ignored in the conversation surrounding suicide is the extent to which the issue affects Native American communities in South Dakota.
“Among the statistics we see are extremely higher levels of suicide in Indigenous communities, disproportionately,” Muckey said. Indeed, looking at suicide rates by county from 2011 to 2020, the top ten counties with the highest rates are Buffalo (74.3), Todd (53.7), Corson (50.8), Oglala Lakota (48.6), Lyman (44.2), Dewey (43.8), Haakon (36.9), Stanley (36.5), Jackson (33.6) and Kingsbury (31.8).
These counties, with the exception of Kingsbury, are home to the reservations and off-reservation trust lands of the Cheyenne River Sioux, Standing Rock Sioux, Rosebud Sioux, Crow Creek Sioux, Lower Brule Sioux, Rosebud Sioux, and Oglala Lakota Sioux tribes.
“We may not always think about what’s going on in Corson County or Dewey County if you’re not in that area,” Muckey said, noting the relative geographic isolation of some of those counties. . “It is important for people to know that four counties in South Dakota (Buffalo, Todd, Corson, and Oglala Lakota) are in the top 1% of suicide deaths in the United States. All are from Indigenous communities, and American Indian suicide deaths are 2.5 times higher in South Dakota and it’s no secret that much of that involves isolation. geographic – but also the historical traumas suffered by Native American communities, and the continuing economic factors that plague Native American communities.
When it comes to meeting the needs of geographically and economically isolated communities, Muckey encourages people to consider what is available in terms of comprehensive suicide prevention efforts.
“In Buffalo County and some of these other counties that we’re talking about, whether it’s in reservation country or elsewhere, it’s very much about the all-encompassing nature of the resources available,” Muckey said. “Comprehensive means everything, mental health care certainly, but also things like economic supports – what’s actually available to communities, and there may be some shortages of certain elements of a prevention strategy that aren’t the.”
Muckey says that when it comes to ongoing efforts to reduce the general tendency toward suicide, it’s important to take systemic approaches that focus both on individuals, but also on real community resources to empower people the hope, help and support they need to fight suicide. ideation.
Lost & Found started on a college campus. To help explain how individuals can help develop suicide prevention resources, Muckey spoke about the first steps and goals of the organization which was founded over a decade ago.
“The origins of Lost & Found were to do more to prevent suicide by connecting youth and young adults not only with education and resources available or where they can seek help, but also [teaching] how to talk about mental health,” Muckey explained. “Particularly during Mental Health Month, one of the best tips and support Lost & Found can share is something we’ve created called the Let’s Talk Mental Health Guide.”
Muckey then discussed the importance of being able to have honest and open conversations about topics such as suicide risk. “If we can better understand our risk and can take steps to address it, whether through protective factors like community, connectivity, physical well-being, or managing our risk factors like substance use disorders or mental health issues – if we have this understanding, we can actually take action, not only to help ourselves, but also to support others.
The most important thing you can do to help, especially during Mental Health Month, is to get the training you need so you can help yourself and others.
“If you go to sdsuicideprevention.orgthere is a list of training that focus on things like Question, persuade, refer training – up to Youth Mental Health First Aid or Mental Health First Aid where you are able to provide immediate support and care to someone who may be going through a mental health crisis,” Muckey said.
If you or someone you know is going through a suicidal crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.