- May 3rd, 2013
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The Federal unemployment rate dipped to 7.5% today due to strong growth in menial, temporary and low paying jobs. Meanwhile, according to the CDC, the suicide rate in 2010 among persons 35-64 years of age jumped by 28.4% compared to rates ten years earlier. The largest increase was in the 55-59 range where rates increased by a whopping 49.1%. The CDC announced that for the first time more Americans die by their own hand than in automobile accidents.
News reports characterized this as an increase among “Baby Boomers” which is a bit misleading since the younger half of the group (35-49) are not baby boomers according to any definition I’m aware of. Presumably, the rate increase is related to the economic disaster that was hitting its peak about during 2010.
The data on suicide by race is interesting. The ethnic group with the lowest rate is Hispanic (3.5 suicides per 100,000 population). Rates among blacks and Asians were also low (5.8 and 10.6 respectively). American Indians had the highest rate at 65.2 while whites had a rate almost 12 times as high as Hispanics at 40.4.
What does a suicide rate say about society as a whole? Each individual death will have been caused by a multitude of factors (not least of which is ready access to an effective method: Firearms for men. Pills for women.) Nevertheless, we ought to be able infer something about the health of a society by this statistic.
If the rate of successful suicides has increased, then it is fair to suppose that there is a corresponding increase in the rate of suicidal despair* as well. Suicidal despair will only rarely result in successful suicide. The pain of this despair is more commonly alleviated by increasing levels of alcoholism and drug abuse. It would be nice to know what that ratio is. I would also like to know how much profit the drug companies have made in the past ten years hawking the latest snake oil version of anti-depressant and anti-psychotics to these millions of people with suicidal despair. Can we not conclude that these charlatans are a total failure based only on this statistic? Shouldn’t the rate of suicide be a pretty fair indicator of the effectiveness of our mental health system? I would guess that the ethnic group that avails itself of mental health and psychiatric services is white people. I would also speculate that Hispanics are probably the least likely ethnic group in this country to use these services. Interesting.
On the positive side, for those who survive their suicidal despair (lost the job, lost the house, lost all their retirement and sense of dignity and self worth as defined by our culture), perhaps learning to find meaning in something other than one’s net worth is the best revenge. Menial, low wage jobs are coming back! And not having health insurance has the additional benefit of discouraging you from seeing a shrink.
*Suicidal despair is not in the DSM.