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Suicide hits rural America the hardest

Adapted from Centers for Disease Control; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Suicide rates have been steadily rising over the past several years throughout the U.S., but the trend has hit rural areas the hardest, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between the lines: There's no one explanation for the trend. Having less access to mental and behavioral health experts, not seeing as much of the economic recovery, or even a tendency not be as quick to seek help could contribute to the higher rates of suicide in rural America, Dr. Jane Pearson, chair of NIMH’s Suicide Research Consortium, told Axios.

The big picture: Suicide rates in the U.S. jumped during the recession, and even though there has been significant economic recovery since then, they've continued to climb.

  • That's not true throughout the world: the global suicide rate has declined by 29% since 2000. But even in foreign countries, there often remains a disparity between rural and urban suicide rates.
  • In China, for example, the nation has become urbanized, and women — who are far more at risk of committing suicide in China— have begun moving into cities instead of caring for family in more rural areas. With that, suicide rates particularly among Chinese women have been dramatically declining, Pearson said.

One key reason for the global decline in suicide rates has been the reduction in access to lethal products that can be used as weapons. In Sri Lanka, for example, since certain deadly pesticides used on crops have been banned, suicide rates have been declining, according to the Economist.

  • In the U.S., guns are the most common means of committing suicide: 22,938 people committed suicide by firearm in 2016, according to CDC data.
  • Because of this, some suicide prevention groups and public health professionals have been reaching out to gun owners — showing up at gun shows, having events at shooting ranges — to talk about suicide prevention and how to spot gun owners who might be at risk, Pearson said.
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