Monday, November 5, 2012

U.S. suicide rate rose sharply in recession

Every rise of 1 percent in unemployment was accompanied by an increase in the suicide rate of roughly 1 percent, it found. (From "Increase Seen in U.S. Suicie Rate Since Recession," by Benedict Carey, New York Times, November 4, 2012, below)
Did anyone hear this information duuring any of the debates, TV commercials, newspaper stories and analysis over the last several months of the presidential campaign?
Not likely!
And so long as we continue to abstract the issue, by reporting only the numbers without the faces and the families and the destruction and the guilt and the shame that accompanies this tragedy, we will continue to participate in a kind of universal "cover-up" of the real import of the issue.
Suicide is a horrible event; it is so horrible that our society does not really know how to deal with it, as a matter of discourse, debate, and public policy.
And yet, we know that everyone, if asked, could produce a list of contributing factors that, while never specifically applicable to any person's choice, would likely offer a comprehensive list of factors.
Most of the research evidence points to the fact that those contemplating, and of course those executing, their own suicide, perceive, believe and probably even "know" that they have no other options, that they have hit a dead-end, that they have no one to turn to in their black hole, whatever circumstances have shaped that black hole.
Society's reluctance, even refusal, to discuss a death that results from suicide contributes to the collective preference to avoid talking about both the event and the context of the event. And yet, we all know someone who has contemplated, or succeeded in taking his or her own life. And we also know that we never want to get a phone call informing us that someone we know has taken his or her own life.
There are legions of stories of people taking their own lives during the Depression of 1929, and now, in a rather hygenic and abstract story about statistics, we learn that there has been another significant increased in suicide during the most recent economic collapse. All of those people who took their own lives had both potential and hope, at sometime in their lives, to contribute to the enhancement of the community, each in his/her own unique way.
And their loss is not only tragic emotionally to those who knew and loved them, but also a significant loss to the community whose profile would be changed, had they lived a full life and made their contribution.
We are becoming innured to what their loss means to the community; these names, if they are published in obituaries, are merely another digit in a world drowning in digits. And yet, it would behoove us to pause, and to reflect on the meaning of their actions, and the statement their act makes about the communities we have created where their deaths mean so little.
Thanatos, the death wish, was named long ago by the Greeks, as one common characteristic we all share. Whether we believe that or not, we all share in the loss of individuals whose lives no longer carried meaning for those who chose to end them. Unless and until we change how we see this tragedy, repeated too many times in too many circumstances that we know are preventable, the numbers, and the names of those who consider this their only option will grow.
And so long as the acquisition of money is the guiding principle of too many lives, we will all share in the burden of a rising suicide rate, unnecessarily.
.Increase Seen in U.S. Suicide Rate Since Recession
By Benedict Carey, New York Times, November 4, 2012
The rate of suicide in the United States rose sharply during the first few years since the start of the recession, a new analysis has found.
In the report, which appeared Sunday on the Web site of The Lancet, a medical journal, researchers found that the rate between 2008 and 2010 increased four times faster than it did in the eight years before the recession. The rate had been increasing by an average of 0.12 deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 through 2007. In 2008, the rate began increasing by an average of 0.51 deaths per 100,000 people a year. Without the increase in the rate, the total deaths from suicide each year in the United States would have been lower by about 1,500, the study said.
The finding was not unexpected. Suicide rates often spike during economic downturns, and recent studies of rates in Greece, Spain and Italy have found similar trends. The new study is the first to analyze the rate of change in the United States state by state, using suicide and unemployment data through 2010.
“The magnitude of these effects is slightly larger than for those previously estimated in the United States,” the authors wrote. That might mean that this economic downturn has been harder on mental health than previous ones, the authors concluded.
The research team linked the suicide rate to unemployment, using numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Every rise of 1 percent in unemployment was accompanied by an increase in the suicide rate of roughly 1 percent, it found. A similar correlation has been found in some European countries since the recession.
The analysis found that the link between unemployment and suicide was about the same in all regions of the country.
The study was conducted by Aaron Reeves of the University of Cambridge and Sanjay Basu of Stanford, and included researchers from the University of Bristol, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the University of Hong Kong.

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