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Suicide Is Becoming America’s Latest Epidemic

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EDITOR’S NOTE:&nbspThis article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.

We hear a lot about suicide when celebrities like Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade die by their own hand. Otherwise, it seldom makes the headlines. That’s odd given the magnitude of the problem.

In 2017, 47,173 Americans killed themselves. In that single year, in other words, the suicide count was nearly seven times greater than the number of American soldiers killed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars between 2001 and 2018.

A suicide occurs in the United States roughly once every 12 minutes. What’s more, after decades of decline, the rate of self-inflicted deaths per 100,000 people annually — the suicide rate — has been increasing sharply since the late 1990s. Suicides now claim two-and-a-half times as many lives in this country as do homicides, even though the murder rate gets so much more attention.

In other words, we’re talking about a national epidemic of self-inflicted deaths.

Worrisome Numbers

Anyone who has lost a close relative or friend to suicide or has worked on a suicide hotline (as I have) knows that statistics transform the individual, the personal, and indeed the mysterious aspects of that violent act — Why this person?  Why now? Why in this manner? — into depersonalized abstractions. Still, to grasp how serious the suicide epidemic has become, numbers are a necessity.

According to a 2018 Centers for Disease Control study, between 1999 and 2016, the suicide rate increased in every state in the union except Nevada, which already had a remarkably high rate.  In 30 states, it jumped by 25% or more; in 17, by at least a third.  Nationally, it increased 33%.  In some states the upsurge was far higher: North Dakota (57.6%), New Hampshire (48.3%), Kansas (45%), Idaho (43%).

Alas, the news only gets grimmer.

Since 2008, suicide has ranked 10th among the causes of death in this country. For Americans between the ages of 10 and 34, however, it comes in second; for those between 35 and 45, fourth.  The United States also has the ninth-highest rate in the 38-country Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Globally, it ranks 27th.





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