Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Rural, isolated areas lead the nation in suicides

Some of the nation's most rural and isolated states have the highest rates of suicides, Laura Beil reports for The New York Times. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wyoming, one of the largest states in area but one of the smallest in population, led the nation in 2012 in suicides with almost 30 deaths per every 100,000 people, well above the national average of 12.6 suicides per every 100,000 people. Alaska, Montana, New Mexico and Utah were not far behind. Rural adolescents also commit suicide at about twice the rate of their urban peers, according to a study published in the May issue of the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Some of the reasons attributed to higher suicide rates in rural areas are lower incomes, greater isolation, family issues and health problems," Beil writes. "Country life can be lonely for people in the grip of mental illness or emotional upheaval, and the means to follow through on suicidal thoughts are close at hand. Firearms, the most common method, are a pervasive part of the culture; 51 percent of rural households own a gun, compared with 25 percent of urban homes, the Pew Research Center reported last year. Experts also note a mind-set, born long ago of necessity, dictating that people solve their own problems." (CDC graphic)

"Self-medication with alcohol and drugs can add to the challenges, and a study this year in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse noted that rural treatment centers have reduced access to highly educated counselors," Beil writes. 

"Identifying at-risk patients in private doctors’ offices or adding a mental health component to a public clinic can catch people who would otherwise avoid being seen at an office obviously associated with mental health," she writes. "Technology may also provide an answer, enabling doctors to reach patients in underserved areas via live video chats streamed to computers, television screens and iPads in clinics and schools." (Read more)

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