Depression In America (December 4, 2007)
I received many emails of condolence from readers regarding the suicide of my old friend. I was surprised by the ubiquity of this tragedy; a number of readers reported they knew three or even more people who had taken their own lives. Here is one longtime correspondent's observations:
Your column today (12/1/07) was especially poignant. I am deeply sorry for your loss. The emotions you expressed have been experienced by those of us who have also lost friends to suicide. Since 1990, six of our friends -- good friends to professional colleagues -- have committed suicide.Another longtime contributor made this observation:
Very sorry to read about your friend, depression is very hard to handle as I know. I think it's the high standards that we place on ourselves only to fall short in our own eyes.This set me wondering if "pressure to succeed" nations like the U.S. have higher suicide rate than other countries. I started with the National Institutes of Health report The Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America:
Mental Disorders in AmericaI was staggered by the loss of young lives, and by the total number of deaths, which is similar to the total number of people killed each year in traffic accidents in the U.S. (43,000).
Troubled by the high suicide rate among teens, I found this report: Global suicide rates among young people aged 15-19 which revealed that the U.S. is in the middle of global suicide rates for teenagers. This is not comforting, but it does make you wonder about conditions in nations such as Sri Lanka with rates that are much higher than others.
To find out more about adult suicide rates around the world, I went to Nationmaster.com, a treasure trove of statistics, and found these reports:
global suicide rate, females
global suicide rate, males
Clearly, culture and civil strife/stress play huge determining roles in suicide. Why Sweden and the U.S. have similar rates while Portugal's is much lower, I do not know; but we can surely speculate that Sri Lanka's terrible, decades-long civil war must be a factor in that nation's sky-high suicide rate.
By coincidence, frequent contributor azvitt sent in two links on a major report issued by Mental Health America, formerly known as the National Mental Health Association, the country's largest nonprofit mental health advocacy group.
Utah leads the nation in rates of depression
Utah is the most depressed state in the country, according to a nationwide study released Wednesday. The first-of-its kind examination of the "level" of depression and actual outcomes for those seeking help to treat it, ranks Utah 51st — last in the nation.Why the sad face, Ohio? Experts detail reasons we're among most depressed
James Brush, a Monfort Heights psychologist, said Ohio's job losses, coupled with high foreclosure rates, are putting a damper on the state's mood.Mental health is too complex to be reduced to sound-bites, but access to care was also mentioned as a factor. As our "healthcare"/sick-care system falters/becomes ever less accessible, and as our economy stumbles, I fear for the mental health of our citizenry.
Thank you, readers, for your expressions of sympathy and for sharing your own experiences. They helped me understand how widespread this loss is in our country and indeed, our species.
Thank you, Peter L., ($10), for your kind contribution to this humble site. I am greatly honored by your readership and support. All contributors are listed below in acknowledgement of my gratitude.
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