"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Highest US State Suicide Rates And Why

Richard Florida writing in The Atlantic (5.10.13) has cited a new CDC study identifying those states which showed the highest increase in suicide rates (1999-2010) http://charts.theatlantic.com/embed/518438f7bf96c4058f00002a/

The top ten, in descending order are: Wyoming, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Vermont, Arkansas, Indiana, Oregon, and South Dakota. Wyoming had an eighty percent increase over the period while most others were over fifty percent.  The author is at a loss to explain this phenomenon and tries and rejects the most obvious theory – the recession.  The Dakotas are booming, and many other states on the list are doing relatively well, so economic distress can’t be blamed.  So, it must be guns, and Florida cites a recent Harvard School of Public Health study:

The Harvard School of Public Health News, which summarized the main findings of the study, notes that "in states where guns were prevalent—as in Wyoming, where 63 percent of households reported owning guns—rates of suicide were higher.

This of course is nonsense, for it only takes into account registered guns. In fact, the District of Columbia, a city awash in firearms, mostly illegal, ranks last on the Suicide.org ranking.  If there were indeed a correlation, not a specious association, between gun prevalence and suicide, K Street lawyers and post office clerks alike would be shooting themselves in the head at astronomical rates.

I have done my own investigation and have come up with more relevant and salient reasons, presented here:

WYOMING: Loneliness and mountains.  Not only are there too few people in the state to matter, they are spread out; and there is no chance for the lively social interaction that prevents suicides in cities like San Francisco or New York.  Also, mountains are scary.  There are no Plains states on the list because the wide open spaces inspire awe and wonder at Creation.  It is no accident that America the Beautiful cites the ‘spacious skies’ and ‘amber waves of grain’ way before ‘purple mountains’.  Mountains are dark, brooding, intimidating, and suggest Old Testament power.  Might as well get it over early since death by God’s wrathful hand in an infernal blaze will be far worse than a bullet to the temple.

NORTH DAKOTA. Nothing there.  Never was.  Oh,yes. Fracking.  Wow! There are no North Dakotans who know anything about oil and gas, so most of the jobs go to out-of-staters and the locals just keep on staring at the prairie and getting depressed. 

RHODE ISLAND. A total mess. Outside of Brown University and a few nice beaches, Rhode Island has always been a corrupt, venal place.  Providence is a city where it is really hard to find your way around, and despite the thousands of donut places, it is very hard to get a good cup of coffee let alone seared foie gras. The city is a mixed use hodge-podge.  If you can find a nice house to live, it may well be next door to a body shop. Living in a city where it is hard to find your way home, and your home is surrounded by Dunkin’ Donuts and Jiffy Lube must be very depressing.

HAWAII. Island fever.  Hawaii is everyone’s dream state.  It has the perfect climate, magnificent scenery with beaches and verdant mountains, a well-integrated multi-cultural society; so what could be bad?  Every long drive ends up in the ocean.  You can’t leave by car. Of course you can fly places, but Americans don’t like to feel hemmed it, cramped, and especially limited in opportunity.  It gives us a gnarled, nasty feeling which starts with kicking the dog, yelling at the wife, and then, ending it all.

VERMONT. Too bloody cold. There is nothing in that state except for cool summers and that is why its population triples in the summer with DC people and in the early fall with leaf peepers.  However summer and fall last only a few weeks, and the rest of the year is spent in frigid Arctic cold, snow, and dismal, depressing grey skies.  The only wonder is why Maine is not on the Top Ten.  It is colder and more depressing by far; but Mainers have always been known for their crusty independence and heartiness, so perhaps keeping busy keeps them alive.

ARKANSAS. Name me one person you know who would like to live in Arkansas?  Hillbilly cracker state on the bottom of most socio-economic indicators.  Mississippi, as poor as it is, at least has the vibrancy of the Delta blues, and the expansive glory of white cotton fields ripening in the sun; but Arkansas only has gloomy mountains and backwoods rednecks who, my research indicates, are quite happy because they don’t know any better

INDIANA. Too much basketball.  The sports culture is so pervasive that even the most spirited Hoosier is drawn in and numbed by its monotony and mindlessness.  If I lived in a state where Bobby Knight is more important than Shakespeare, I would contemplate a Socratic end for sure.

OREGON. Too PC.  Living in Oregon is like living in Sartre’s No Exit where the lesson is ‘Hell is other people’.  Every action, gesture, word, and deed is scrutinized through the lens of ‘progressive’ politics and culture.  It is a perverse police state with its own Stasi system of informers, draconian rules to enforce environmental compliance, and no place to get spicy, fatty, salty brats.  Very depressing.

SOUTH DAKOTA: Desolation. Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is in North Dakota, and it is the poorest county in the nation.

The whole state looks pretty much like this except for the places where the oil companies are fracking; and there is no wonder why most Americans have never even heard of the state.  There are just about as few people in North Dakota as there are in Wyoming, but at least in Wyoming you can go hiking in Yellowstone.  In North Dakota there is nada. If I lived in North Dakota and couldn’t leave, I think I would contemplate suicide for sure.

Also, you can look at Mt. Rushmore only so many times.

There you have it.  I am happy that I live in the District of Columbia which is not on the list, so I have no reason to feel depressed.

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