As Minnesota's veteran population shrinks, suicide still takes a steady toll
Minnesota veterans have died by suicide at more than twice the rate of the state's civilian population since 2005, although that rate declined slightly in 2018, according to an analysis of data provided by the Minnesota Department of Public Health.
In all, nearly 1,600 Minnesota veterans have died by suicide since 2005, underscoring a longstanding crisis that’s taken a heavy toll on vulnerable veteran populations while playing a role in worsening suicide numbers overall.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates about 16 military veterans die of suicide each day nationally.
Preliminary data on veterans' deaths was provided by the Department of Health at the Star Tribune's request and provides a comprehensive look at the characteristics of suicides among those with prior military experience.
Finalized statistics for 2018 have not yet been released, but despite a drop in the suicide rate between 2017 and 2018, the suicide rate among veterans routinely remains far higher than that of the general population.
State death records show that 44 veteran suicides occurred between January and June 2019 — a number roughly in line with recent years
Suicides occur most often among those who are male and older than 54. Two-thirds of Minnesota's veteran suicide deaths involved a firearm, a method more common among former service members than other groups.
And as Minnesota's gradually dwindling veteran populations age, experts have warned rates could further rise without intervention.
"Suicide is heartbreaking, and our nation understandably grieves with each one," read a VA release from September. "However, suicide is preventable, and we all have a role to play in saving lives."
The Veterans Crisis Line can be reached toll free by calling 1-800-273-8255 and pressing 1. It’s open to all veterans, not just those who are patients at VA medical centers. The text number is 838255.