Rural counties in Wisconsin have a significantly higher rate of suicide than urban/suburban counties, according to a recently released report.
The Prevent Suicide Wisconsin report “Suicide in Wisconsin: Impact and Response” was released this month in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Mental Health America of Wisconsin and the Medical College of Wisconsin Comprehensive Injury Center.
Among the report’s major findings was that the 2013-2017 age-adjusted suicide rate in Wisconsin’s rural counties at 15.8 suicides per 100,000 population was notably higher than the rate for counties classified as urban/suburban, which had a rate of 14 per 100,000. The majority of Wisconsin’s counties are categorized as rural, as based on the National Center for Health Statistics 2013 Urban-Rural Classification.
Conversely, the 2016-2017 rate of hospitalization with self-harm injuries was significantly higher in urban counties — 90.3 out of 100,000 population — compared to rural counties — 73.6 out of 100,000.
In both cases, the report does not specifically address or speculate as to why the discrepancy between the rates of rural and urban/suburban counties exists. It also does not specify data on an occupation-specific level, such as farming.
General suicide risk factors mentioned in the report include access to lethal means; mental health issues; alcohol issues; non-alcohol substance use issues; physical health problems; job, financial or legal problems; relationship issues; and recent arguments or conflicts.
As a whole, the report found that Wisconsin’s suicide rate rose by 40% from 2000-2017. At 15.3 suicides per 100,000 population in 2017, the state’s rate is above the national rate of 14 per 100,000.
The Wisconsin Suicide Prevention Plan is a response to the report’s data and includes four strategic areas to create a comprehensive approach.
One of those strategies, as detailed in the report, is to increase access to care for at-risk populations.
Among the methods for doing so listed in the report are expanding mental and physical health access and offering help in non-clinical settings, such as through mobile apps or telehealth services. The report does note that “rural areas often have high ratios of population to provider, which can signify shortages and affect access.”
Increasing the public’s knowledge of risk factors and warning signs as well as the public’s preparedness to support at-risk individuals can be another option to increase access to care for at-risk populations, according to the report.
QPR — Question, Persuade, Refer — training has become increasingly available for individuals to take. The training helps participants identify and support those in crisis.
The Wisconsin Farm Center, part of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, has hosted several virtual QPR training sessions for the agricultural community this year, starting at the end of July. Two more virtual sessions are coming up on Sept. 21 and Oct. 1.
Other organizations also sponsor QPR trainings throughout the state, and the QPR Institute, qprinstitute.com, offers online training for a fee at any time.
Many suicide prevention resources are available. Prevent Suicide Wisconsin, which has a list of county crisis lines, is online at preventsuicidewi.org. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 and can be accessed by calling 1-800-273-8255. Text HOPELINE to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line.