Who’s at Risk

Suicide rates across age, gender and ethnicity are higher in rural areas, and rural men are twice as likely to complete suicide than those in urban areas. We know that rural areas are underserved by mental health providers, and that stigma surrounding mental illness and mental health services can be worse in rural areas. Many times, those living in rural areas have difficulty accessing treatment due to lack of providers, transportation and cost. (Source, Mental Health First Aid USA)

 Half of all completed suicides use a firearm as a method. In rural areas, this number climbs to three-quarters. Suicide attempts by those who use a firearm are more likely to be fatal than suicide attempts by other means. Access to firearms is a risk factor for suicide. According to the Harvard School of Public Health “it is the combination of firearms high lethality and irreversibility that puts suicidal individuals living in home with firearms at greater risk.”

Older adults account for almost 20% of suicide deaths in the U.S. The risk of suicide for an older person increases as they age. The suicide rate for seniors may even be underreported, due to older adults choosing methods such as overdoses, starvation and dehydration. Seniors may be at higher risk due to a greater incident of stressful life changes such as retirement, failing health or death of a spouse.

 Middle-aged men (ages 35-64) have the highest suicide rate in the United States. Men are more likely than women to choose firearms as a method to complete suicide, and are less likely to seek help for mental illness than women. Men at this age are particularly at risk due to loss: of a job, of health, or a relationship. These men may also be involved with the criminal justice system, or have alcohol or substance abuse problems. (Source, AFSP, SPRC)

 Suicide rates among veterans are higher than that of the general population for both men and women. Although veterans are only 8% of the US population, they account for more than 14% of all suicides in this county. A commonly quoted statistic is that more than 20 Veterans in the United States complete suicide every day. A veteran’s suicide risk is more than 50% greater than that of the general population, and their rate of depression is five times higher. (Source: Veteran’s Administration, Mental Health First Aid USA).

 First responders, such as fire personnel and EMTs and paramedics experience a great deal of job-related exposures to trauma that can lead to increased risk of mental health concerns such as PTSD, and higher risk of death by suicide. In rural areas, first responders are commonly community volunteers. These people may be personally affected when responding to a disaster or other emergency, and may be personally acquainted with the individuals they treat. Research suggests that first responders may be at higher risk for suicide than the general population.  (Source: SPRC, SAMHSA)

 Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages (10-34). The risk is greater among LGBTQ youth. The risk increases if there are firearms in the home. Suicide by overdose is also common among teens. Teens who are experiencing a mental health problem, or who are experiencing life stressors such as divorce, moving, or bullying are also at greater risk of suicide. (Source: CDC, Kids Health).