Minneapolis Health Department shares message of hope during Suicide Prevention Month
The Minneapolis Health Department is working to reach out to those struggling with their mental health during this Suicide Prevention Month. The number of people who took their own life last year surpassed suicide deaths in 2020 and 2021.
If you or a loved one is struggling with their mental health, call or text 988 to connect with a trained crisis counselor 24/7.
“It is a very different kind of loss,” said Kara Hirdman, a senior public health specialist in mental well-being at the Minneapolis Health Department. “It’s not like there is an absolute understanding of why, right?”
She still has vivid memories of receiving the call her uncle Paul Lee died by suicide on Christmas Eve in 2006.
“It’s one of those memories that you can you can imagine exactly where you were at clear as day,” she said. “It was just a whirlwind of sadness and anger and frustration.”
Hirdman remembers her uncle struggling with anxiety, depression and substance use disorder before his death. She feels his loss every day.
“It’s kind of just an open wound that doesn’t seem to ever fully close or heal,” she said. “The loss is so very devastating because you always have this thought in the back of your head of, ‘Is there something else I could’ve done?’”
Hirdman is sharing her personal story during the Health Department’s Suicide Prevention Month campaign. She hopes to raise awareness about the warning signs and the help that is available to those who are struggling with their mental health.
“We need to make sure this is a very important conversation that can be had without stigma attached,” said Hirdman.
Suicides are increasing in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. The data shows at least 835 people killed themselves in 2022, which was the highest number since 2000. The previous peak was in 2019 when 830 people died by suicide.
In Minneapolis specifically, suicide deaths rose from 40 in 2021 to 58 in 2022.
“We don’t know all the reasons honestly,” said Sue Abderholden, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Minnesota. “Depression and anxiety certainly play a role. Having access to means to take your own life is also part of it, and I think loneliness.”
There are warning signs to look out for. These include someone saying they’re a burden to others or that they’re feeling extremely sad or hopeless, or expressing they want to die. Actions can also indicate a crisis, such as giving items away, increased substance use, sleeping too much or too little, or withdrawing from others.
Abderholden said it’s best to talk to a loved one if they start exhibiting any of those signs.
“Even ask them, ‘Are you thinking about killing yourself?’” she said. “It doesn’t plant the idea but it does also tell that person you’re noticing changes in their behavior, you’re worried about them and that you care about them and that is something that could actually save someone’s life.”
Hirdman wants those who are struggling to know there is hope and encourages them to ask for help, whether that’s by contacting 988 or visiting a nearby emergency room.
“It might be such an uncomfortable situation to ask for help, but we’d much rather you ask for help and be here,” she said. “I wish I could’ve said that to my uncle, that I want him to still be here and I miss him a lot.”
Hirdman added, “It’s more important to know that you stay here and you’re here with your family and friends and know that you’re loved and cared for and there are people and resources that really want to help.”
In addition to the 988 crisis line, there are mobile mental health crisis teams available across Minnesota. You can reach one in your community by contacting the phone numbers listed here.
NAMI Minnesota also has more information about resources available.