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Opinion: Rural America's Suicide Epidemic

Written By Timothy Knight on 3/11/15 | 3/11/15


Rural America is often seen as the heartland of this great country, with Schoharie County a shining representation of all its hard working ethos and well natured community spirit.

However, if The Atlantic's Julie Beck is to believed, our position might also put us in the cross-hairs for tragedy:
In rural America, where there are more guns, fewer people, and fewer doctors than in the urban U.S., young people are at particular risk of suicide.
A study published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics analyzed suicides among people aged 10 to 24 between 1996 and 2010, and found that rates were nearly doubled in rural areas, compared to urban areas.
She stated the aforementioned in her recent piece "The Growing Risk of Suicide in Rural America," an eye opening and question spurring article that addresses several issues we have grown increasingly accustomed to in our own community.

Namely, the county's lack of sufficient employment opportunities and a growing sense among young people of feeling out of place with a population that is rapidly aging. Combine that with a cultural stigmatization and we are in trouble.

The statistical realities are just as disheartening, according to Beck:
Both adults and adolescents are at greater risk of suicide in remote areas of the U.S., according to a 2006 literature review. But suicide is in general more common among adolescents and young adults: It’s the third leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the second for people 25 to 34, and the 10th most common among the general population.
So what are we to do? We know Schoharie County isn't immune to this type of tragedy - just last fall a SUNY Cobleskill student took his own life on campus. What is the solution to a problem that can impact anyone from any background?

Well, whatever the solution, it has to begin with the recognition that there is a problem to begin with and that once we can accept that reality, we can let go of a cultural stigmatization that only emboldens a sense of apathy and loneliness.

After that acceptance the rest will fall into place, most of which involves an increase in mental health awareness and societal understanding. I don't think it can be stressed enough that the simple act of understanding can make the difference.

For anyone who is going through difficulties and needs a kind voice to hear your troubles, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and talk to one of their caring counselors, because your life is worth it. 
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