NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An average of three people died by suicide each day in Tennessee in 2016, the highest recorded in the state in more than 35 years.

News outlets cite Tennessee health officials as saying white middle-aged men in rural areas account for a majority of the deaths. White males make up 40 percent of Tennessee's population, but made up 77 percent of suicide deaths in 2016.

But officials from the Tennessee Department of Health's Office of Health Statistics say suicides also are increasing among those 10 to 19 years old.

East Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network official Amy Dolinky says the vast majority of people kill themselves with guns.

Dolinky says the difficulty of talking about feeling suicidal and the stigma surrounding mental illness have contributed to the rise in suicides.