Judging by the latest data by the Center for Disease Control, something is driving Americans to become their own worst enemies: From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among US citizens between the ages of 35 to 64 soared by about 30 per cent, to 17.6 deaths per 100,000 people.
Suicide now ranks higher than death by automobile: in 2010, there were 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes compared with 38,364 suicides.
Although suicide tends to be viewed as a problem inflicting teenagers and the elderly, the recent study shows a marked rise in the number of suicides among the Baby Boom generation (a demographic group born between the years 1946 and 1964, when the annual birthrate rose dramatically in the US).
Suicide rates soared across all four geographic areas and in 39 states. The state of Wyoming recorded the highest increase in suicides with a 78.8 per cent jump (31.1 per 100,000). Even the paradise state of Hawaii witnessed a 61.2 per cent increase (21.9 per 100,000).
Yet some believe even these shocking numbers are too low since many deaths are not treated as actual suicides.
“It’s vastly under-reported,” Julie Phillips, an associate professor of sociology at Rutgers University, told The New York Times. “We know we’re not counting all suicides.”
What’s going on here? What is suddenly pushing so many Americans to take their own lives?
The striking thing about the data is that the suicide rates really began to surge just as the Global Financial Crisis was making landfall in late 2008. While suicide rates increased slowly between 1999 and 2007, the rate of increase more than quadrupled from 2008 to 2010.
“There is a clear need to implement policies to promote mental health resilience during the ongoing recession,” said Aaron Reeves of Britain’s University of Cambridge, who submitted his findings to The Lancet medical journal.
Reeves went so far as to suggest that the Democrats and Republicans are partially to blame for failing to mention the issue during the latest presidential campaign.
“In the run-up to the US presidential election, President Obama and Mitt Romney are debating how best to spur economic recovery, [but] missing from this discussion is consideration of how to protect Americans’ health during these hard times,”Reeves warned.
Where’s the democracy?
So what else is responsible for driving up American suicide rates? Could it be the loss of democratic representation inside our corporate fortresses, those medieval-style fiefdoms that are now working overtime to control the US political process as well?
Thanks largely to the passage of the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission ruling (2010), transnational corporations are now entitled to donate unlimited amounts of hard cash to the political campaign of their choice without having to come clean on the expenditures. The ruling even applies to foreign corporations!