Provisional data of suicides in South Dakota in 2022 shows a slight decline from the record-high number of suicides recorded in 2021.
This preliminary data, which can still change as death reports are submitted, shows 191 suicides in 2022 as of April 11. This is 5.5 percent decrease from the 202 suicides reported in 2021.
“On face value, this tells us that we’re seeing the potential that statewide efforts are bearing fruit, which is helpful to the overall efforts of the state’s Suicide Prevention Workgroup,” said Erik Muckey, CEO and executive director of Lost&Found. “To come down from a record level is a good thing. One less life lost to suicide is a good thing for our families, communities, and the well-being of our state. To see any kind of reduction should be considered a win.”
He cautioned, however, that this may still change.
“When our county coroners are able to report final numbers and those numbers show something less than 202 suicide deaths, we can really see and appreciate what is working and what isn’t working. Suicide death is historically underreported, and it’s important for South Dakotans to remember that 191 suicide deaths are still too many,” he said. “Considering, also, that there are still 40 percent more suicide deaths than they were in 2012 when there were 135, we still have years to go before we turn the tide.”
Getting this data, even when it’s not final, is helpful to Lost&Found and other organizations working in suicide prevention.
“As members of the South Dakota Suicide Prevention Sub-Workgroup, we are grateful to see this information in what feels like ‘real time’ to respond to trends throughout the year,” Muckey said. “It’s not a common practice nationwide to see this data so quickly, which gives ecosystem organizations such as Lost&Found an opportunity to respond and change strategy during the year that organizations in other states may not have.”
The data also show who has been most affected by suicide, and that, unfortunately, is youth and young adults. Between 40 and 50 percent of suicides in recent years have been of people under the age of 35.
“Suicide remains the leading cause of death for South Dakotans in that age demographic, reminding us of the importance of Lost&Found’s mission,” Muckey said.
He added that men should take notice: For all ages and races, suicide takes more lives of men than of women. This is in part because men are more likely to attempt suicide with firearms, and those attempts are more likely to result in death. Men may also be less likely to seek mental health care.
“Suicide also has a significant impact in rural communities and tribal nations, where geographic isolation, poverty, and reduction in access to mental health care workers is a significant contributor to community suicide risk,” he added. “Without appropriate investment in those areas, we’ll continue to see South Dakota’s overall suicide death rate continue to remain among the highest nationwide.”