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Rural Blog: Youth suicide rates up in at least 36 states; decline in prescribing antidepressants blamed

At least 36 states saw a rise in youth suicide rates from 2006 to 2014, Michael Ollove reports for Stateline.

The overall rate for suicides among people 19 and under rose during this period from 2.18 per every 100,000 teens to 2.72. The biggest increase was in Utah, where youth suicide rates rose from 2.87 for every 100,000 teens to 6.83. (Stateline map: Change in teen suicide rates from 2006-14)

suicide rate

Incidents of youth suicide in Kentucky declined to 24 in 2014, compared to 30 in 2006.

Experts site a decline in psychiatric medicine for the increase in suicides, Ollove writes. In 2003 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued warnings that antidepressants may increase the risk of suicide in teens and adolescents, leading many doctors to stop prescribing them.

A study in 2003-04 linked higher rates of teen suicide to the decreased prescribing of antidepressants. Experts say another possible cause for the rise in teen suicides is in increase of cyber-bullying.

One study in rural Wisconsin linked higher teen-suicide rates to rural areas, “where people are more likely to be depressed and mental health services may be less accessible,” Ollove writes.

In Utah, for example, “public schools are barred by law from ‘advocating homosexuality,” which, critics say, discourages any candid conversation on the subject” and leaves LGBTQ youth with no support system.

Utah does not track suicides by sexual orientation, so little data exist on that theory.

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The Rural Blog is a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the IRJCI, based at the University of Kentucky. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org.

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