As Medicaid Cuts Take Hold, Suicide Rates Rise

This is so sad. Ever since the Reagan era, mental health services have been inaccessible to a large segment of the population, particularly the poor and disadvantaged. And especially now the embrace of austerity by our Republican overlords is taking

This is so sad. Ever since the Reagan era, mental health services have been inaccessible to a large segment of the population, particularly the poor and disadvantaged. And especially now the embrace of austerity by our Republican overlords is taking a toll. A deep one.

Via Yahoo! News:

Suicide is on the increase in rural America--nowhere so much as in western mountain states like Idaho, Wyoming and New Mexico. Mental health professionals attribute it in part to cutbacks in Medicaid funding, to the recession and to the culture of the rural West.

In Idaho, somebody kills himself every 35 hours, according to a 2009 report to Idaho's governor by the state's Council on Suicide Prevention. Their report calls suicide "a major public health issue" having a "devastating effect" on Idaho's families, churches, businesses and even schools: 65 students aged 10 and 18 killed themselves in a recent five-year period.

Recently, a county sheriff in Bonneville told the Idaho Falls Post Register that his department was getting more suicide calls than in 2010—a year in which 290 Idahoans took their own lives. "We're in a spike right now," he says.

Historically the suicide rate in rural states has been higher than in urban ones. According to the most recent national data available, Alaska has the highest rate, at 24.6 suicides per 100,000 people. Next comes Wyoming (23.3), followed by New Mexico (21.1), Montana (21.0) and Nevada (20.2). Idaho ranks 6th, at 16.5. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Idahoans aged 15-34. Only accidents rank higher.

Kathie Garrett, co-chairman of the Idaho Council on Suicide Prevention, says the problem has gotten only worse since the recession. "The poor economy and unemployment—those put a lot of stress on people's lives," she explains. To save money, people skip doctor visits and cut back on taking prescribed medications. Cuts in Medicaid have reduced the services available to the mentally ill.

Assuming the Affordable Care Act withstands a Supreme Court challenge, Medicaid funding from the federal government will increase substantially, but for these people, it's too late. Between the economy and lack of access to mental health services, some feel overwhelmed and miserable, particularly at this time of year.

If you know someone suffering, please encourage them to call a suicide hotline or reach out to someone for help. The national suicide hotline number is 1-800-273-8255.

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