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Study: Youth Suicide Rates Higher in Rural Areas

Suicide rates among youth ages 10 to 24 are nearly twice as high in rural communities than in urban areas, according to a recent study by the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

The study, which analyzed data from 1996 to 2010 from the National Center for Health Statistics, found that isolation and lack of access to health care, especially mental health care, were among the reasons for high rural suicide rates.

"If a rural child is depressed, it's much harder to get state-of-the-art care. And it's especially difficult to receive psychotherapy in a rural area," said John Campo, senior author of the study, in a statement. According to the statement, more than half of the counties in the nation do not have a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker, and all of those counties are rural.

A recent story by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner delved into this topic and found that Alaska has struggled with higher-than-average suicide rates for years. Nearly 62 percent of Alaska's schools are rural, and they serve 28 percent of students in the state, according to The Rural School and Community Trust. More than 20 percent of those students are English-language learners, and more than 57 percent are minority students. 

According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Alaska has attempted to combat the high suicide rate by running outreach programs and establishing suicide prevention initiatives in communities. Public school staff members are also required to complete suicide-prevention training.

The Associated Press and The Christian Science Monitor also recently explored this topic in the context of Indian reservations. Suicide rates for Native youth ages 15 to 24 are nearly double the national average, according to the Monitor. Youth on Indian reservations often face many other issues, like high dropout rates, high poverty, and high rates of alcoholism among tribal members. According to the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute, suicide is the second leading cause of death for American Indian youth. 

The authors of the Ohio State University study suggested school-based interventions to target youth in rural areas and called for improved access to mental health care in rural areas. The report also recommended that rural primary care physicians integrate mental health care into their practices. 

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