For young people in rural areas, suicide poses a growing threat

April 24, 2015

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News


A recent study found that the rate of suicide is almost twice as high among rural young people (ages 10-24) as for the same age group in urban areas. Cynthia Fontanella, associate professor of clinical psychology at Ohio State University and the lead author of the study, attributed this difference in part to a lack of access to mental health services in rural areas. Only about half of all United States counties have a practicing mental health professional, and every county without one is rural. She noted an additional barrier to help-seeking: In a small community, it is harder for someone seeking mental health care to keep others from knowing about it. The study also found that suicides by young people in the country are much likelier to involve a gun than those that take place in the city. Dr. Frederick Rivara, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, pointed out that gun ownership is higher in rural areas, and suggested focusing on safe storage of firearms as a suicide prevention strategy. “Especially in rural areas, guns are here to stay,” he said. “But what people can do is make sure that any guns at home are stored securely and kept away from those who are at risk.”

Spark Extra!Read about strategies one Montana county is using to meet residents’ mental health needs.