Rural Youth Suicides Almost Double Rates In Urban Areas

A troubling new report on youth suicide shows that the gap between rural deaths and urban deaths is widening; From 1996 to 2010, rates of death from suicide among children, teens and young adults were nearly double in rural communities, when compared to urban ones.

The disparity, said study lead author Cynthia Fontanella, Ph.D., of Ohio State University, is a sign that more needs to be done to understand the experiences of rural youth. She called for more funding to place mental health practitioners in schools and programs that empower primary care physicians to take on mental health issues with their patients.

“It’s like a silent epidemic,” said Fontanella. “Almost 67,000 kids have died over this period.” The study was published recently in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Fontanella collected national suicide numbers for people aged 10 to 24 and extracted their location and cause of death. Then she categorized all 3,141 counties in the U.S. into 8 groups on a spectrum from rural to urban, depending on how big their populations were and how far they were from big metro areas. Finally, she controlled for confounding variables like high school and college education, race, income, unemployment, poverty and family structure.

She found that from 1996 to 2010, 66,595 youth had died from suicide. Broken down by gender, the rate of rural male suicide from 2008 to 2010 was 19.93 per 100,000 — almost double that of 10.31 per 100,000 for urban boys and young men. Previous data from 1996 to 1998 show that this ratio used to be 18.98 per 100,000 (rural) versus 11.95 per 100,000 (urban), which means the gap between rural and urban suicide rates increased from 1996 to 2010.

For women, the rural suicide rate was 4.4 per 100,000, while the urban rate was 2.39 per 100,000. —> Read More