Casualties of conservatives.

[CONTENT NOTE: suicide.]

I woke up this lovely morning to a news alert from The Washington Post about soaring suicide rates in the U.S.:

The U.S. suicide rate has increased sharply since the turn of the century, led by an even greater rise among middle-aged white people, particularly women, according to federal data released Friday.

Well, not exactly. Ten paragraphs later, we learn that Native Americans and Alaska Natives have seen an even greater rate of increased suicides than whites. There’s even a colorful graphic and everything:


But reporters Dan Keating and Lenny Bernstein and their editors at the Post apparently felt they only needed to mention this fact in passing—and no need to mention veteran suicides at all. Fascinating.


Last decade’s severe recession, more drug addiction, “gray divorce,” increased social isolation, and even the rise of the Internet and social media may have contributed to the growth in suicide, according to a variety of people who study the issue.

But economic distress — and dashed hopes generally — may underpin some of the increase, particularly for middle-aged white people.


The data showed a 1 percent annual increase in suicide between 1999 and 2006 but a 2 percent yearly hike after that, as the economy deteriorated, unemployment skyrocketed and millions lost their homes.

“People [were] growing up with a certain expectation . . . and the Great Recession and other things have really changed that,” said Julie A. Phillips, a professor of sociology at Rutgers University who studies the demography of suicide. “Things aren’t panning out the way people expect. I feel for sure that has had an effect.”

Ya think?

Who bankrupted the country with illegal wars and tax breaks for the obscenely wealthy? Who made whole the criminal banksters and the corrupt institutions that destroyed the economy, while untold millions of ordinary citizens were wiped out? Who has been intent on destroying the already inadequate social safety net for vulnerable citizens?


Dick Cheney’s Lizard People, with enthusiastic assistance from conservative Democrats the Squirrel People, that’s who.


  1. lorn says

    “Dick Cheney’s Lizard People, with enthusiastic assistance from conservative Democrats the Squirrel People, that’s who.”

    Ahhh … I see. The real problem is not the ever increasing suicide rates for the good people, it is that the lizard people suicide rate is much too low. I think if we raise tax rates enough we can get that suicide rate for lizard people up. Seems like it might be worth a try.

  2. says

    lorn: No. The idea of increasing suicide rates for any group is truly terrible. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt (I assume you are joking), but nevertheless the suggestion may be upsetting or triggering to some people.

  3. lorn says

    I certainly didn’t men to offend anyone.

    I will note that the socioeconomic trend that have increased the suicide rates in the demographics concerned were not a result of any accident, or even an unintended consequence. The right has long reveled in both a devil-take the hindmost economic fascism and The Prosperity Gospel in which wealth is a sign of divine favor and poverty a punishment from on high.

    Nations and regions are systematically played off of each other. We have long ago passed the point where mere tax breaks and fair treatment will tempt major investors. Lowered worker rights regulations and environmental laxity are just a good start. To be competitive in bringing in industry you need to actively subsidize it and provide a tax-free path to get the profits out.

    Of course these regimes all have to be payed for. Executive pay and investor profits are sacrosanct so, with no one else to pay, the workers and poor pick up the slack. As the economy for the workers is hollowed out and it becomes obvious to even the most optimistic that hard work is just a treadmill you sweat over waiting for your dreams to die in the ever fading light it is no surprise that people give up.

    Death is built into the system. Suicide, disease, neglect, bad water, sub-suicidal despair, and accidents are the modalities of death and the inevitable consequence of the system. This is entirely acceptable to the investor class. That it is also mildly amusing for them is just an accidental benefit.

    Be assured that if there was an up-tick in the suicide rate for wealthy white teens there would be resources allocated and a national program launched. We have seen this time and time again. As long as it was poor, and mostly brown, people dying of the drug du-jour it hasn’t an issue. Only when it came to the suburbs and edged close to wealthy families that anyone cares.

    Of course I’m not talking about any one drug or set of drugs. I’m talking about an entire economic/ political/ capitalist/ international regime where the fears and toil of the poor are used to run a mighty machine of capital concentration. Where government is used to guarantee profits for the wealthy instead of protecting the poor and the good of the nation.

    This just touches the wider issue:

    This whole picture is offensive in its design and purpose. It is disgusting in its motivation. It is also very real, and inescapable. So I make fun … because crying does no good. I’m sorry if I crossed a line.

  4. dianne says

    Sadly, my first thought was to wonder why the suicide rate for blacks and Hispanics were so low. I wonder if they are being undercounted somehow.

  5. says

    lorn 3: I agree with you—especially the part about laughing rather than crying. It’s just that if you think about it, suicide jokes fall into a similar category as rape jokes do for survivors, e.g. those who have lost a loved one to suicide and people struggling with suicidal thoughts and depression. It’s one thing to joke about, say, suicidal terrorist squirrels (which is really a joke about terrorism), but I think when it comes to human beings we need to tread much more carefully around this subject.

    dianne 4&5: That struck me right away, too. My guess is that it may have to do with people in those communities experiencing less social isolation than whites do overall, as well as already lowered expectations of economic progress. In my experience, it takes whites a long time (if ever) to realize that the American Dream™ is bullshit propaganda, whereas minorities cannot easily escape learning that the system is rigged, both generally speaking and in particular against them. That doesn’t explain the skyrocketing numbers for Native Americans, but there could be factors in play that are unique in those communities. :|

  6. dianne says

    My guess is that it may have to do with people in those communities experiencing less social isolation than whites do overall, as well as already lowered expectations of economic progress.

    I’m not sure that’s the explanation or at least not the whole explanation. How is there less social isolation in the African-American, Asian, and Hispanic communities than in white communities? And while the idea that it takes whites longer to realize that the system is rigged against 99% of them as well as against minorities, if that were the explanation I’d expect lower suicide rates among Native Americans as well.

    This is a guess, but I am still wondering if it’s not just that suicides are undercounted in minorities other than Native Americans. Especially given the much lower baseline. Maybe there is a greater taboo in some communities so accident is invoked more often, if it is vaguely plausible? Or if you don’t want the stigma of suicide and you’re a depressed young African-American man, just walk down the street a bit and a cop will shoot you. No need to kill yourself.

    Alternately, there may be differences in the local subcultures that make suicide seem like a better solution to whites. More bullying among whites, maybe? Or even a difference in genetic tendency towards depression (though most US-Americans whose families have been in the US more than a couple of generations are mixed race, like it or not, so genetics is going to be hard to invoke except for maybe lack of hybrid vigor in the more isolated white populations.)

    Of course, none of these ideas are mutually exclusive.

  7. dianne says

    Of course, there’s also means to be considered: It’s harder for an African-American or Hispanic person to get a gun or reliable poison than it is for a white person. Wonder what the attempted suicide rate is by ethnic group?

  8. Lofty says

    For the three groups in the lower half of the table there is a suicide method not normally counted as such. It’s called “death by cop” and involves you not feeling very happy and briefly glancing at an armed thug in police uniform.

  9. Great American Satan says

    Something else that has risen dramatically in the same time frame that leads to massive increase in suicide odds? Eating disorders. Particularly when we see women affected worse, I wonder why no one is making that connection.

  10. dianne says

    @9: Death by cop is quite open to Native Americans as well. (Heck, whites can use it, they just have to work a little harder.)