Youth Suicide Study Shows Unemployment Is A Risk Factor

The Mountain West has some of the highest teen suicide rates in the country. A new report out of the region looks at what conditions contribute to the high rate of youth suicide. 

The yearlong study came out of the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. 

"Colorado has a teen suicide rate that’s twice as high as the national average,” said Andrew Romanoff, the director of Mental Health Colorado. “Just a staggering heartbreaking statistic.”

The Attorney General’s study focused on the four counties with the highest suicide rates: El Paso, Pueblo, Mesa and La Plata. Romanoff said they showed some shared risk factors, from cyberbullying to pressure to fit in at school. But he said, adult mental health played a role too.

"Kids are sponges," Romanoff said. "So they pick up on the stress that adults in their lives feel."

According to the study, that could be stress that comes from unemployment and a slow economy in many of these areas.

“If your folks can’t find a job,” said Romanoff, “it makes life tough in every way for you.”

Romanoff said identifying this wide range of risk factors is a good start toward prevention efforts in regions with high suicide rates, like in the Mountain West.  

According to the United Health Foundation, the national teen suicide rate is 8.9 per 100,000 adolescents aged 15 to 19. 

Wyoming’s rate is 28.9 - more than three times the national rate. Utah’s rate and Montana’s rate are more than two times as much, at 21.2 and 22.5 respectively.  Idaho’s rate and Colorado’s rate are nearly twice the national rate at 16.3 and 17.6 respectively.

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 and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.