Thursday, December 15, 2016

Youth suicide is increasing in rural areas but declining in metros; Utah paper takes a look

Youth suicide rates are higher in rural areas, where young people often deal with isolation, limited transportation, a lack of mental-health providers, the stigma of undergoing mental-health care, more access to guns, and high rates of poverty and substance abuse, Lois M. Collins and Lauren Fields report as part of a series on teen suicide for the Deseret News in Salt Lake City.

A Utah Department of Health report found that suicide is the leading cause of death among the state's residents 10 to 17. The state ranked eighth nationally in youth suicide in 2012-14, with rates tripling from 3 per 100,000 people in 2007 to 8.5 in 2014, says a separate health department report. "Fourteen percent of teens say they’ve thought about suicide, while nearly a thousand a year survive self-harm or suicide attempts (not necessarily the same thing), some living with varying degrees of damage." (Deseret News graphic)
The problem is greatest in rural areas, reports the Deseret News. "A 2015 study comparing teen and young adult suicides in all U.S. counties from 1996-2010 showed suicide rates in rural communities were nearly double those of urban areas—and the gap is increasing." (Deseret News graphic)
"Experts theorize that the same features that make rural life special can be both protective and risky: Wide-open space is great if you’re riding horses, but awful if you’re trying to reach a mental health specialist," reports the Deseret News. "A tight knit church community is life-affirming, unless you feel you aren’t included. And it’s nice to know everyone until you’d like some privacy."

A 2014 Pew Research Center report found in rural areas 51 percent of households own a gun, compared with 36 percent of suburban and 25 percent of urban homes, reports the Deseret News. An American Foundation for Suicide Prevention report found that "firearms were the most common suicide method in 2014, accounting for half of U.S. suicide deaths." Kimberly Myers, co-chair of the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition and prevention coordinator in Utah’s Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, said "gun owners are not more likely to try to kill themselves, but guns are especially lethal so there’s less opportunity for rescue."

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