Bobbie Gentry’s 1967 country song tells the story of a boy who mysteriously “jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge.” Even today, suicide still accounts for about 1 in 10 deaths among teenagers. Although national rates of youth suicide have decreased since 1991, a study published this week in JAMA Pediatrics reveals the disparities between rural and urban youth suicide mortality.
According to the study, the suicide rate for male youths in rural counties (almost 20 per 100,000) is almost double the rate of male youths in the most urban counties (about 10 per 100,000). While rural suicides have been more common since at least the 1990s, the gap between rural and urban suicides has only widened with time, at least for males. Regardless of where one lives, youth suicides by firearms have decreased, while suicides by other methods like hanging have increased.
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly why rural youths are committing more suicides. The study’s senior author Dr. John Campo believes accessibility may be a major problem, as “it’s especially difficult to receive psychotherapy in a rural area” (Source: OSU press release). There may also be cultural issues at play; when there is more stigmatization surrounding mental illness, people may be less inclined to seek help, according to the press release. Identifying the reasons behind these tragic statistics should be the next aim for public health policymakers and healthcare professionals.
Photo credit: Victor Reynolds via Flickr