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Youth Suicide Rates Soar Across Mountain West

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A new report shows youth suicide rates have spiked alarmingly in recent years, especially in the Mountain West.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at nearly two decades of youth suicide rates across the country. Researchers found them to be mostly stable in the early 2000s. But then between 2007 to 2017, the national rate increased 56%. In 2017, the report notes, suicide was the second leading cause of death among Americans aged 10 to 24.

“It’s pretty much increasing unabated,” said Sally Curtin, a CDC statistician and lead author of the report.

Curtin calls it a major public health crisis, one that’s particularly acute in the Mountain West, where youth suicide rates have long been higher than the national average.

“Not only were their rates higher to begin with, but they also had percent increases in their suicide rates that were greater, most of them, than the 56% that we saw for the national average,” Curtin said.

Colorado’s youth suicide rate spiked 86% between 2007 and 2017.

Changes in youth suicide rates in select Mountain West states from 2000 - 2017
Credit Centers for Disease Control
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Centers for Disease Control
Changes in youth suicide rates in select Mountain West states from 2000 - 2017

Vincent Atchity, who leads the nonprofit Mental Health Colorado, says one contributing factor in the rural Mountain West is a feeling of isolation. 

“It is definitely worse in rural areas,” Atchity said. “The lack of access to care is more dramatic and pronounced. As is the feeling of stigma associated with seeking help.”

According to the CDC, Utah’s youth suicide rate increased by 93% between 2006 and 2017, Idaho’s by 73% between 2005 and 2017.

Atchity says there’s no one approach to the rising youth suicide rates, but he says reaching out to a young person and asking how they’re feeling can go a long way.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting 741741.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Copyright 2019 KRCC

Ali Budner is KRCC's reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, a journalism collaborative that unites six stations across the Mountain West, including stations in Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, and Montana to better serve the people of the region. The project focuses its reporting on topic areas including issues of land and water, growth, politics, and Western culture and heritage.
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