Colorado teen suicide rate up, but overall trend unclear

Western U.S. shows particularly high rates, state office says

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Colorado ranks among both the 10 highest youth suicide rates and overall suicide rates in states across the country based on recent data, said Sarah Brummett, director of the Colorado Office of Suicide Prevention.

“Over the past three to five years, we have seen an upward trend in suicides in the younger population,” Brummett said. But it’s “not a statistically significant shift, necessarily … Based on historical trends, we couldn’t say this represents a true change in the data, but it’s still something to pay attention to because we still see the trend nationally.”

Nearly 100 young Coloradans have died by suicide per year in the past few years, looking at ages 10 through 19, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The raw numbers are smaller among youths, so the youth rate is more volatile than for other age groups. About 1,000 to 1,100 adult Coloradans die of suicide each year, Brummett said, so the upward rate trend is more reflected among the younger population.

The earliest year in the state’s online data set is 2004, when the rate for ages 15 to 19 was 14.6. All rates are measured in deaths per 100,000 people. Since then, it’s seen somewhat of a small rollercoaster pattern, hitting the time period’s highest point at 20.3 in 2017 and sitting at 18.3 in 2018. The trend has generally been upward since 2004.

Colorado’s rate among all ages has been higher throughout that window, sitting at 21.9 in 2018.

From 2014-17, for ages 10-18, Colorado’s suicide rate was sixth-highest in the country, Brummett said. But there isn’t a statistically significant difference between many of the highest 10 states rates for that age range, so Colorado’s true rank within the highest 10 is unclear, she continued. The same is true of Colorado’s overall suicide rate.

Many of the highest youth rates are in the mountain West — as are many of the top 10 state rates across all ages, Brummett said.

That region tends to have the social norms that include a “cowboy mentality, pull yourself up and rub some dirt on it and move on,” Brummett said. Vast rural stretches also make access to neighbors, community, resources and health care difficult, she added.

From 1999 to 2016, suicide rates in the United States increased significantly in 44 states, with 25 states experiencing increases of more than 30%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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