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State sees rise in suicides during pandemic with rural areas seeing greater increase | Local News


A Tulsa World analysis found that only Wyoming and Montana have higher suicide rates than rural Oklahoma, where the latter’s 2020 suicide rate was 25.7 per 100,000 people.

The 2019 suicide rates in Montana and Wyoming, the most recent available, was 26.2 per 100,000 people in Montana and 29.6 per 100,000 people in Wyoming.

Nationally, the U.S. suicide rate was 13.9 per 100,000 population in 2019, while Oklahoma ranked seventh nationally in suicides at 20.6 per 100,000, according to the CDC.

Terri White, executive director of Mental Health Association Oklahoma, said the increase in suicides in rural Oklahoma from 2019 to 2020 reflects how the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected suicide rates, especially in rural areas.

A number of barriers are to blame for higher suicide rates in rural parts of the state, she said.

“Rural residents, in general, are slightly more likely to experience mental health issues and are less likely to seek treatment for their conditions,” White said. “Also, transportation and a lack of financial resources can further decrease access to their mental health care. There also tends to be more stigma about mental illness in rural areas than in urban areas.”

White said rural women as a whole, and rural pregnant women in particular, are an example of how the population is at greater risk for behavioral health issues than women living in urban communities.

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