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Think you better turn your ticket in, get your money back at the door

by anna at 06:50 PM on May 27, 2003

In my last post I speculated about a possible link between my recent bout with the blahs and the endless torrent of rain. Since then Iíve been boning up about that ultimate bellwether of depression, suicide rates. Allow me to share what Iíve learned.

Prior to embarking on my search, I formulated some hypotheses: 1) Areas that get a lot of precipitation would have higher suicide rates. 2) Densely populated areas would have higher suicide rates. I based this on the well-documented Crowded Rat Syndrome. 3) Places with high levels of diversity would have higher rates, because natives start to feel as if strangers in their own land. 4) Poor people are more likely to kill themselves. Alas, all these suppositions turned out to be more or less false.

The nationís perennial suicide leaders are Nevada, which is an arid desert, and Alaska, which has among its lowest population densities and highest per capita incomes. Neither populace is particularly diverse. Indeed, one sees the lowest rates in the Northeast, where people are packed in like cordwood and total diversity is a reality. Yes, suicide is far more common in the hinterlands than urban metropolises. Go figure.

White men commit suicide the most. Yet they are by far the most affluent group. And while this may seem counterintuitive, itís easily explained. My theory is that one develops a certain adversity tolerance threshold (ATT.) The more trouble youíve endured, the more likely you are to take setbacks in stride. And rolling with the punches is one key to avoiding intractable depression.

Likewise, the loftier your aspirations the more apt you are to be sorely disappointed. And the busier you are eking out a meager existence, the less time you have to wallow in self-pity. My guess is that primitive societies don't even have a word for suicide.

Lastly, blacks have always had a built-in outlet known as the blues. By contrast, white musicians bring you the pent-up angst and outright hostility of Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam and Rage Against the Machine. When my daughters lived her, that music was enough to drive me to the brink of cashing out.

Youíve got to be careful when drawing conclusions from suicide data, however. For example, single people kill themselves more often than married folk. One could easily infer that singles are lonesome and miserable due to their lack of a mate. But you must also consider the chicken-and-egg question. Maybe the types of people who are unable to or disinterested in securing a mate are the same personalities prone to defeatism, internalizing misery and resultant suicide.

Nonetheless, the fact remains that continuous rain is crushingly depressing; as is chronic poverty and overcrowding. Ditto for the impression that your once homogenous environs are being overrun by swarms of immigrants with no intention of assimilating into the general population. Yet, for whatever reason, those subjected to these conditions day in day out seldom go so far as take their own lives. Indeed, only 30,000 Americans sucumb to their suicidal urges each year. Perhaps my ATT theory holds true after all.

I myself find this data fascinating, especially the fact that while women attempt suicide more often, men succeed way more frequently. Though I have no idea what to infer from that information. Maybe you do.

comments (15)

Great post, Anna. Men frequently use much more violent and extreme measures for suicide ie)Firearms, jumping, hanging... while women tend to use less lethal means, pills(overdose), slit wrist, carbon monoxide, etc, where 100% completion of suicide is harder to accomplish. I heard that self-asphyxiation via plastic 'cooking bags', sleeping pills, elastic(placed around adam's apple), baseball hat(brim so you don't breathe in the bag while sleeping), and cold towel(so bag doesn't completely get too hot, that you wake up) is the most comfortable way to go. However, I'd say, if you don't have anyone who loves you or depends on you, then too each his own.

by LOCKHEED at May 27, 2003 11:25 PM

So wait a minute, in what sense is "homogen(e)ous" a good thing? I find the idea of someone dreaming back to the days when everyone was the same kind of sad. And I think anyone who thought that immigrants were the reason they wanted to end their life would be in serious denial.

by tim at May 28, 2003 6:20 AM

Tim, that's not what I meant at all. What I theorized is that people might be bewildered out by the rapid change in their environment i.e. Spanish signs, multiple languages spoken etc. I know that in the 12 years I've lived in my town there's been an amazing transformation and it's taken some getting used to is all.

by anna at May 28, 2003 7:59 AM

yeah, lighten up tim, go back to college with that super sensitive "I can't believe you just said that" shit. man's asking the hard questions here.

i know light plays a big role in suicide. the darkness in alaska probably doesnt help. in nevada, logic would seem to dictate that it would be the opposite but i wonder if the fact that its so damn hot out means people stick to the indoors more often. probably that isnt so much the case.

i know its hard to find a woman in alaska, and maybe outside of las vegas and reno it isnt a meat market in nevada either.

economic hardship is a factor, but people in the east are able to scramble because of the sheer volume of businesses. inother parts of teh country, when times are tough, there is literally nothing to do.

if that meets with Tim's approval

by eff at May 28, 2003 10:42 AM

what about the legality and availability of gambling in nevada? people who blow their life savings at a crap table are probably more prone to suicide. i'd wager that accounts for at least some part of the numbers...

by JC at May 28, 2003 12:26 PM

and i have heard/read the statistic that women use less surefire methods of attempting suicide. when men do it, we go through with it. women tend to choose methods that give someone time to find and rescue them. it's more about a cry for help with women than the "and i'm done" of the men. (just talking about the majority of cases for each sex, of course.)
i overheard a conversation about this once...the general consensus of the group was that men choose the method that will get the job done because they're emotionally stronger and will follow through with it. but what's strong about killing yourself? suicide is just giving up. i'd say the woman who leaves the door open for failure is stronger. she's admitting that she has a problem and can't deal any more, and can someone please help her? and living with a failed suicide attempt must be hard - harder than being dead, i'd wager.

by JC at May 28, 2003 12:35 PM

Hey lock, is only a 50% completion of suicide possible? (sorry, just being a smartass..)

by Leaffin at May 28, 2003 2:48 PM

JC put that in a perspective I'd never thought of. It's way too easy to say that men are more goal-oriented and all that crap. And I do agree there are percentages of "success." Many people wind up with wrist scars, in a coma or severely disabled from injuries sustained in suicide attempts, I'd think.

by anna at May 28, 2003 6:20 PM

Actually, it's not that the woman leaves the door open for failure, usually, they close the doors, windows, and garage door too. What else, let's see, this topic is frightening, and there are no new posts. Career suicide is also a terrible thing. I'm losing whatever ability I have left to write. Does MG still exist? Or has there been a mutiny? If so, we should hold elections. This sucks.

by Lockheed at May 28, 2003 8:07 PM

Ah yes, the question of MG's whereabouts. He'll turn up in due time but in the meantime, it does kind of suck. I love to read his stuff. I also wonder where Ezy is. He came over to my house, partied and hasn't been heard from since.

by anna at May 29, 2003 7:45 AM

jeez...you make yourself sound like a serial killer. what'd you do to ezy, mAnna?

by JC at May 29, 2003 11:47 AM

Okay, here's my $0.02 for the discussion, since I've had plenty of experience in the depression areas.

First off, weather conditions do have effects on emotional states of many people, but these changes are usually mild to moderate. Suicide is more likely to be attributed to severe depression, rather than any other factor.

So on to depression. The numbers seem to indicate that it's a mostly middle-class white female disease, but recent work have what I think is closer to the truth: depression strikes independent of any socioeconomic factor (or pretty much any factor at all) but what varies is how the person 1.) can identity and vocalize it, and 2.) how they deal with it.

So yeah. Not to be a downer or holier-than-though, Anna, but suicide is a much more complex thing than you make out. However, Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder (SAD) is the clinical term for depression linked to the weather, mostly due to the variability of sunlight. Might want to check it out.

by snaggle at May 29, 2003 12:08 PM

Though men kill themselves at a higher rate than women (something like 3 to 1), women actually try to kill themselves more often than men. Which would suggest that snaggle is right in describing females as more likely candidates for depression, and that lockheed is correct in saying that men are more successful in their execution of destruction onto themselves.

All that time alone. Just me and my tools.

A sad statistic is that among 26 industrialized nations, the suicide rate for children in America is higher than all the other 25 nations combined (http://www.cdc.gov/epo/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00046149.htm#00002255.htm). Makes me wonder about family relationships and social structures. Isolation and depression are powerful factors.

by chris at May 29, 2003 4:29 PM

Very interesting post anna!

by Shannon at May 29, 2003 5:51 PM

Thank you Shannon! While (as everyone knows) I appreciate any and all comments, the thread on a post like this is bound to take a morbid turn. And with this rain threatening to flood our house, I can't take anymore. You'll see---a lighthearted post from me. Soon.

by anna at May 29, 2003 7:12 PM

comments are closed