New suicide data show mounting mental health concerns among baby boomers

  • Article by: KELLY SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 31, 2013 - 12:37 AM

State health officials described a spike in the number of suicides among seniors 65 and older.

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Governor Mark Dayton, left, and MN Department of Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

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New data show a surprising spike in suicides among baby boomers to the highest rate in recent years, likely in part because of the recent recession and mounting life stressors, state health officials said Friday.

The Minnesota Department of Health released 2011 data on Friday that show a 13 percent increase from 2010 in suicides overall. Most of that increase is among middle-aged men 55 to 59 years old. That, along with the suicide rate for seniors over 65 years old increasing to the highest levels in 12 years, prompted Commissioner Ed Ehlinger to say that more prevention efforts and research are needed on baby boomers and mental health.

“This is a significant issue that it’s going up,” he said. “We need to start focusing our efforts on [baby boomers], which I don’t think we’ve done in the past.”

The trend reflects national data.

In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said that suicide rates among middle-aged Americans have risen substantially since 1999. The greatest increase in suicide rates were among 50-to 54-year-olds, leading officials to call for more specific prevention efforts that deal with the types of the stressors that middle-aged Americans face.

In Minnesota, local and state mental health efforts have grown recently, with the state expanding a texting hot line called “Text-4-Life” and mobile crisis teams to most counties.

Now, with the large group of baby boomers aging, Dan Reidenberg, the executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), said they’re facing mounting stresses from loss of finances and retirement plans, deaths of friends or family, and medical issues.

“This baby boomer cohort has been so powerful in their life,” he said. Now “they see dwindling impact on their life. We have a lot of concern about it.”

 

Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141 Twitter: @kellystrib

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