[Vision2020] Suicides Down 29% World-Wide; Up 30% in U.S.

Nicholas Gier ngier006 at gmail.com
Sat Jan 5 11:48:30 PST 2019

*Suicides down 29% World-Wide; Up 30% in the U.S.*

*If America gave up its guns, suicides would crash.*

—*The Economist* (11/24/18)

            In 1972 I moved from Denmark, where I had had taught for one
year, to Moscow to start my career at the University of Idaho. I fell into
a conversation with a student on campus, and I told her how impressed I was
with the Danes and their system of government. She countered with this
assertion: “Welfare states cause people to kill themselves more often than
other countries, don’t they”?

            At that time the non-socialist Hungarians and the Lithuanians
had much higher suicide rates, but, even so, the Danes took their own lives
at a rate twice that of the U.S. The Danes are very effective in addressing
social problems, so their Danish suicide rate is now 12.8 per 100,000
(Western Europe’s is 13), while the U.S. rate has risen to 15.3 for the
same number of Americans.

            According to *The Economist*, the world-wide suicide rate has
decreased 29 percent since 2000. Russia experienced the largest drop: from
45 per 100,000 to 25.  Highly competitive South Korea peaked in 2010 at 39
and now stands at 20. China ties with the all-country rate of 10 per

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. rate
has risen 30 percent since 1999. Boom and Bust North Dakota suffered a 58
percent increase in suicides, but Delaware went up only 6 percent.
Curiously, Nevada reported no increase at all.

In 2016, among the top ten states with the highest rates (21-26 per
100,00), seven were Red States, and the lowest rates (5-12) were found in 9
Blue States and the District of Columbia. White majority Montana was the
highest at 26 per 1000,000 and black majority D.C. was lowest with 5. In
our own state 21 of the same number killed themselves.

There are two major reasons for this alarming phenomenon: (1) many white
males without a college education are caught in deadly web of alcohol and
drug abuse; and (2) troubled veterans below the age of 35 are taking their
own lives at increasingly higher rates. Significantly, all the increase in
suicides has been in the white and native population; the rate among
blacks, Hispanics, and Asians has been level at 5 per 100,000 since 2000.

A report from the Government Accountability Office shows that the Veterans
Affairs Department (VA) has done a poor job in addressing military
suicides. On average 20 vets kill themselves every day, which, in 2016, was
45 for every 100,000 Americans. Furthermore, vets are 1.5 times more likely
to kill themselves with a gun.

This year the VA has spent only $57,000 of the $6.2 million that was
appropriated for a social media campaign to address the issue. The Trump
administration has not filled many of the positions that were tasked for
this purpose. Current officials blame former VA Secretary David Shulkin for
not addressing the problem effectively on his watch, but that is no excuse
for them not spending the money to save vets’ lives.

If one calls the Spokane VA Medical Center, the message is as follows: “If
you are having a physical or mental health emergency, hang up and please
call 911.” If vets have thoughts of suicide, they do not get a counselor
(as some suicide hotlines provide); rather, they are given an 800 number to
call. Not very helpful to say the least, and that $6.2 million would
provide a lot of trained professionals to help these troubled soldiers.

            Most sociological studies show a correlation between religious
belief and low suicide rates. This is especially true in Muslim and South
American countries where, contrary to American and European believers,
their citizens take the prohibition against taking one’s life seriously.
The Muslims of Bahrain, Malaysia, Bangladesh; and the Catholics of
Columbia, Brazil, and Ecuador have the lowest rates in the world.

Utah has the highest rate of church attendance, but it has the fifth
highest suicide rate. With some exceptions other church going states also
have high rates. People from New England and most Blue States are the least
religious, and have the lowest rates.

Nearly twice as many Americans commit suicide with a gun than they do to
kill others with one. A study done by the Boston University School of
Public Health found a strong correlation between gun ownership and
suicides. Only 12 percent of those in Hawaii own weapons, and the state’s
suicide rate for males is 5 per 100,000, while males in Wyoming with 73
percent gun ownership kill themselves at a rate of 25 per 100,000. The rate
is even lower (4) in Massachusetts with the second lowest gun ownership.

            In 2016 the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research
issued a report that compared the results of gun law legislation in
Missouri and Connecticut. The researchers found that Connecticut’s
background check law resulted in a 15.4 percent drop in suicides. After
Missouri repealed a similar law, the number of its citizens taking their
lives with a gun rose 16.1 percent.

As a writer for *The Economist* predicts: “If America gave up its guns,
suicides would crash.”

Nick Gier of Moscow taught philosophy at the University of Idaho for 31
years. Email him at *ngier006 at gmail.com*.


A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they
shall never sit in.

-Greek proverb

“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity.
Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance
from another. This immaturity is self- imposed when its cause lies not in
lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without
guidance from another. Sapere Aude! ‘Have courage to use your own
understand-ing!—that is the motto of enlightenment.

--Immanuel Kant
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