May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to take stock of how we and the people around us are feeling.

Lack of jobs and mental health facilities, combined with easy access to guns and alcohol has driven up suicide rates up north.

Bridge Michigan's Report On Suicide In The State Shows Rural Counties Suffer

The non-profit news source Bridge Michigan recently found that suicide rates have been increasing in rural state counties over the past twenty years.

The study showed that rural, northern counties lead the state in per capita suicide rates with northeastern lower, and western upper peninsula counties hardest hit.

Oscoda and Alcona Counties in northeastern lower peninsula both had suicide rates over twice the average for the entire state. Oscoda leads the state at over 30 suicides per 100,000 residents, with Alcona close behind at 28 per 100,000.

Danie Franco via Unsplash
Danie Franco via Unsplash

Good News: Kent And Ottawa Counties Are Both Below The State Average

By comparison, Kent County is near the bottom of the suicide rate at around 11 per 100k, while neighboring Ottawa County had the lowest rate in the state at around 8 per 100k.

The Bridge article shows that lack of mental health resources play a big role in the issues of rural and remote Michigan counties.

Indeed, a 2019 report on mental health treatment found that 10 Michigan counties ─ all in the U.P. or northern half of the Lower Peninsula ─ had no psychiatrist or psychologist. Sixteen Michigan counties, all rural and all but one in the U.P. or northern Lower Peninsula, had no substance use disorder treatment centers.

The report went on to say:

Combined with greater access to guns, an eroded economic base and a higher concentration of military veterans, experts say, it’s a recipe for ongoing personal and family tragedy in rural Michigan.

Not All Of It Can Be Blamed On COVID

In fact, the suicide rate dropped in Michigan in the biggest year of the pandemic, 2020. But over a 15 year period from 2005-2020, the rates in some rural Michigan counties had increased by close to 50 percent.

...the difference in suicide rates between urban and rural counties is stark. Oscoda County’s cumulative suicide rate over the 16 years was 2.7 times that in Wayne County, and nearly three times that in Kent County.

Males are more likely than females to commit suicide in the state, and White males are almost twice as likely to kill themselves than Black males.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, there are people who can help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (800-273-TALK) 24/7. The group also lists resources for anyone who may be contemplating suicide online.

There also are resources for those who served in the military. People can text 838255 to the Veterans Crisis Line or chat online.

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