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The United States’ suicide tsunami

Posted on 08-21-16 in Coping, News & Announcements, Stress

The depressed in United States have been silently receding into the terror of their own miserable angst like a trough of seawater pulling back before a tsunami.

The number of Americans killing themselves has been steadily rising for more than a decade, but over the last 15 years the swell has ascended to horrifying proportions. The tidal wave that is suicide in the U.S. has devastated the country, under our radar.

Suicide victims: The lineup

According to 1999–2014 findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Suicides skyrocketed 24 percent; with an acceleration 2006 and forward
  • The surge in suicides was across the board—from fourth graders to 74 year olds; and among every race and gender category except black males
  • Rates were highest for preteen girls and middle-aged men—both of which arguably suffer the most pervasive identity crisis out of all gender and age demographics
  • In 2014, CDC reported both suicide and psychological distress rates for middle aged men that year surpassed every other age and gender demographic

As an article in Business Insider noted, “The national [suicide] rate rose to 13 deaths per 100,000 people in 2014. Contrast that with homicide, which killed 5.1 Americans per 100,000 in 2013. We instinctively fear the murderer hiding in the bushes, but we are at far greater risk from ourselves.”

It’s the only crime that is not illegal, the only injustice that has no perpetrator; but like a tsunami, even if those in close range can see it coming, they are unable to escape the grief and wreckage loved ones experience in the wake of someone’s suicide.

Polar social groups, relative deprivation and the suicide belt

The most significant death tolls to suicide lie with the polar ends of the social spectrum; groups perceived by the American masses—according to historical privilege, political and economic control and social prominence—to be the greatest and least of these.

As mentioned in a previous article, “Relative deprivation is personal discord or distressing entitlement to something based on comparison to someone else’s experience or possessions.” Depression, anger issues and suicide ideation can result from societal relative deprivation.

Read more on: Chinese parenting and psychology in the U.S.

White males. Across roughly the same spectrum of time as the aforementioned CDC data, 1999–2013, just under half a million 45 to 54 year-old white men died prematurely. That’s almost equal to the aggregate deaths during the AIDS epidemic from 1981–2015 and about the equivalent of the death toll of the Civil War.

Business Insider encapsulates the silent distress and devastating confusion of many white men nationwide.

“…consider the declining fortunes of the white working class. In many ways, this group has suffered economically in the past several decades. With the rise of offshoring and the demise of stable careers for those lacking a college education, the white working class has seen dramatic rises in problems like unemployment and addiction.

“…This might paradoxically be part of the legacy of white privilege: Because white Americans have traditionally enjoyed greater affluence and cultural prestige than people of color, they might take unemployment, poverty, and their attendant indignities as harder to stomach.”

Native Americans. Suicide rates for Indigenous men rose by 38 percent and for American Indian women, a daunting 89 percent.

Native Americans experience the most severe disparity in a wide array of metrics: low quality of life, high poverty and high substance abuse.

As expounded upon in a previous article, “Currently, the rate of suicide among the Inuit [indigenous people in Canada] is, as community members and leaders have put it, ‘a national tragedy.’ The death rate by suicide is a startling 11 times the Canadian average. Inuit youth are particularly at high risk. Common risk factors for suicide amongst the Inuit include:

  • The breakdown of cultural values and beliefs
  • Suicide clusters, many suicides in a short time period
  • Sexual orientation challenges
  • Community instability and poverty
  • Limited employment opportunities
  • Poor housing and inadequate sanitation and water quality
  • Isolated geographic location
  • Loss of control over land and living conditions”

Read more on: Suicide Prevention Part 3: A look at high suicide rates among the Inuit

Suicide belt. Matt Wray is a sociology professor at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He identified a composite of states who all share significantly higher suicide rates than the rest of the U.S. in the 2000s.

Wray unearthed several commonalities that could connect Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming and Alaska’s high suicide rates.

“The Intermountain West” he explains, plus Alaska, are places “disproportionately populated by middle-aged and aging white men, single, unattached, often unemployed, with access to guns,” Wray details.

Why suicide?

To generalize suicide as a selfish or cowardly act is to perpetuate ignorance about the gravity of mental disorder and the earth-shattering profundity of terminal disease and physiological pain.

Thomas E. Joiner, Ph.D., is a renowned professor of psychology with Florida State University. He and his colleagues conducted research delving into at least two explanations for suicide—the latter being a result of the former.

  • Perception that self-sacrifice will relieve loved ones of burden and make room for fruitful lives. Joiner explains humans, like bees and ants, are eusocial species who employ self-sacrificial behavior for the greater good. He points to studies indicating suicide is higher when people feel they are a burden by being: terminally ill, chronically unemployed or suffer a debilitating physical or mental impairment.
  • A prospective clinical diagnosis of Acute Suicidal Affective Disturbance. Joiner’s research suggested fifteen to 20 percent of suicides are attributable to what they have dubbed: Acute suicidal affective disturbance, or ASAD. If accepted into the upcoming edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-6), ASAD would be defined as a derangement exemplified by:
    • Frequent suicide ideation-to-attempt intervals
    • Cyclical depression, anxiety, agitation, insomnia and hopelessness among other symptoms

Read more here: Could suicide be a deranged self-sacrificial act?

Sovereign Health is mindful that substance abuse, eating or mental disorders— like suicide—are not stand-alone issues. Mental distress often spurs addictions and disorders and thus treatment must address the pressing issue at hand as well as the mental composition of each individual, uniquely. That’s why Sovereign Health provides holistic detox plus individualized treatment plans inclusive of cognitive and alternative therapies. We envelop each individual in a personalized recovery plan, to promote lasting wellness and a sober, full life.

About the Author

Sovereign Health Group staff writer Kristin Currin-Sheehan is a mindful spirit swimming in metaphysical pools with faith as her compass. Her cover: a 30s-something Cinderella breadwinner of an all-sport blended family. Her repertoire includes writing poetry, lifestyle articles and TV news; editing, radio production and on-camera reporting. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author at news@sovhealth.com.