Article 43


Friday, May 03, 2013

Suicide In America


The association between SUICIDE AND UNEMPLOYMENT is more important than the association with other socioeconomic measures. Although some potentially important confounders were not adjusted for, the findings support the idea that unemployment or lack of job security increases the risk of suicide and that social and economic policies that reduce unemployment will also reduce the rate of suicide.
- Suicide, deprivation, and unemployment: record linkage study

I pulled the articles below from REUTERS IN INDIA, ALTERNET, and RUSSIA TODAY. In America we’re in denial about a lot of things, while non-facts, wedge issues and propaganda rule our AIRWAVES.

New statistics on SUICIDE are are out in this ONGOING economic COVER UP our rulers call a ”JOBLESS RECOVERY” - whatever that’s supposed to mean - that’s ruined the lives - and SUCKED THE SPIRIT - out of so many people - especially middle-aged former middle-class people like MYSELF, KEVIN FLANAGAN, and FIVE MILLION MORE AMERICANS.



US suicide rates surge, surpass road fatalities

By Robert Bridge
RT News
May 3, 2013

More Americans now die of suicide than from car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a disturbing statistic that some experts say points to the true depths of the US economic crisis.

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, a jump from 13.7.

In 2010, there were 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes and 38,364 suicides.

Although suicide has been traditionally viewed as a problem among the youth and elderly, the recent study, published in Friday’s issue of its MORBIDITY AND MORALITY WEEKLY REPORT [download HERE or HERE] shows a marked rise in the number of suicides among middle-aged men and women.

The suicide rate for men aged 35 - 64 years jumped 27.3 per cent, from 21.5 to 27.3 per 100,000, while the rate for women increased 31.5 per cent, from 6.2 to 8.1.

Among the male population, the greatest increases were among those aged 50 - 54 years and 55 - 59 years, (49.4 per cent, from 20.6 to 30.7, and 47.8 per cent, from 20.3 to 30.0 respectively). Among females, suicide rates tended to increase with age. The largest percentage increase in suicide rate was observed among women aged 6064 years (59.7 per cent, from 4.4 to 7.0).

Men were more likely to take their own lives than women. The suicide rate for middle-aged men was 27.3 deaths per 100,000, while for women it was 8.1 deaths per 100,000.

Suicide rates from 1999 to 2010 “increased significantly 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), while even the sunny state of Hawaii witnessed a 61.2 per cent increase (21.9 per 100,000).

As shocking as the newly released data on US suicide rates are, many believe the numbers are too low since many deaths are not treated as actual suicides.

“Its 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.

Baby Boomer crisis

CDC officials emphasized that the Baby Boomer generation is witnessing the highest increase in suicides (A Baby Boomer is a person who was born post-World War II, between the years 1946 and 1964, when the annual birthrate increased dramatically in the US).

“It is the Baby Boomer group where we see the highest rates of suicide,” CDC deputy director, Dr. Ileana Arias, told the New York Times. “There may be something about that group, and HOW THEY THINK ABOUT LIFE ISSUES and their life choices that may make a difference.”

The rise in suicides among this group CHALLENGES the BABY BOOMER generation MUST NOW CONFRONT.

“The increase does coincide with a decrease in financial standing for a lot of families over the same time period,” Arias said.

In 2010, the first year of economic comeback following the 2009-2010 recession, 93 per cent of all pre-tax income gains went to the top 1 per cent of the American population, which in that year meant any household earning more than $358,000.

Is financial crisis spurring suicide?

Is the rash of suicides across a broad spectrum of the American population a direct result of the wealth hoarding by the top income earners in the United States?

In a letter to The Lancet medical journal, scientists from Britain, Hong Kong and United States said an analysis of data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that while suicide rates increased slowly between 1999 and 2007, the rate of increase more than quadrupled from 2008 to 2010, Reuters reported.

“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 headed the research and submitted it in a letter to The Lancet.

Reeves even suggested the Democrats and Republicans are partially to blame for not throwing a spotlight on 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.

Meanwhile, preliminary research suggests that the risk for suicide will unlikely subside for future generations.

The boomers had great expectations for what their life might look like, but I think perhaps it HASN’T PANNED OUT that way, Phillips said.

“All these conditions the boomers are facing, future cohorts are going to be facing many of these conditions as well.” The study pointed to the increased usage of prescription painkillers, like oxycodone, which can be particularly deadly in large doses.

There was a significant jump in poisoning deaths, which include intentional overdoses of prescription medication. During the 10-year period, poisoning deaths were up 24 per cent over all, while death by suffocation, (including hangings) was up 81 per cent.

Robert Bridge is the author of the book, Midnight in the American Empire, which discusses the dangerous consequences of excessive corporate power in the United States.



Is corporate power pushing Americans over the edge?

RT News
May 4, 2013

From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among US citizens between the ages of 35 to 64 soared by 30 percent, to 17.6 deaths per 100,000 people. Is a void of democracy in the economic system driving Americans to become their own worst enemies?

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 were 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. It even permits foreign corporations to spend at will in our political campaigns without the slightest bit of transparency! Does our Constitution give foreign companies such liberties? No, it does not.

So great is the corporate footprint in the halls of power that I fear THE DAY IS CLOSE at hand when we will actually see a corporation make a run for political office. Why not? They have already been designated as bona fide individuals by our craven Supreme Court (In his book, Unequal Protection,” Thom Hartmann persuasively explains how the 1886 US Supreme Court decision in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company case wrongfully granted corporations personhood).

“Businesses have won,” David Macaray, a labor columnist, wrote in his Huffington Post blog. “They’ve increased their production demands, they’ve extended employees’ work hours (after having-laid off a segment of the workforce), they’ve taken to issuing ultimatums, and they’ve done all of it while, simultaneously, having kept wages relatively stagnant.”

“As for traditional benefits such as pensions, bonuses, SICK LEAVE and paid vacations, forget about it. Most of those have been abolished,” Macaray added.

Did somebody mention a vacation? Despite all the hyped-up talk about freedom and liberty, American workers receive the stingiest vacation packages in the free - and oppressed - world. That is not because Americans have some sort of masochistic attachment to their desks, as some like to argue, but rather because we lack any sort of labor law that forces corporations to remove our chains more than once a year.

Incredibly, the United States is the only country in the world where corporations are under no legal obligation to provide their workers with a break from their jobs. Compare that sad statistic with any other country in the world, even the most totalitarian. This Scrooge mentality must change, or all of our boastful talk about democracy and freedom will be revealed as nothing more than a diversionary smokescreen to conceal what can only be described as an attack on human rights.

Why is it that other countries can readily afford to give their people a break from their jobs and still maintain high living standards?

“Germany is among more than two dozen industrialized countries from Australia to Slovenia to Japan - that require employers to offer four weeks or more of paid vacation to their workers, according to a 2009 study by the human resources consulting company Mercer,” reported CNN.

Still other countries, including Finland, Brazil and France, guarantee their workers up to six weeks off.

It seems fair to ask whether America’s lack of time away from the office is contributing to high stress levels and even sporadic episodes of domestic and workplace violence, up to and including suicide. Shouldn’t the world’s most heavily armed and medicated nation allow its people to hit the beach more than once a year?

This question brings us back to the issue of democratic representation in the workplace, which is presently missing in action.

Although ORGANIZED LABOR is itself FRAUGHT with PROBLEMS, it is nevertheless the last line of defense when it comes to protecting US workers against the insatiable greed of the corporate overlords. Thus, it should come as no surprise that US wages have been plummeting over the last 30 years at the very same time that unions are being decimated.

The total number of union workers fell by 400,000 last year, to 14.3 million, even though the nation’s overall employment rose by 2.4 million, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Just 11.3 per cent of the US workforce is enrolled in a union, the lowest recorded levels since 1916, when it was 11.2 percent, according to a study by two Rutgers economists, Leo Troy and Neil Sheflin, as reported in The New York Times.

What recovery?

Never before has the wealth divide been greater in the United States, a land that was built on the foundation of opportunity.

Between 2009 and 2011, the top 7 per cent of wealthy Americans saw their average net worth explode by 28 per cent, while the wealth of the remaining 93 per cent of the population steadily declined during the same period, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.

The average net worth of the countrys 8 million wealthiest households surged from an estimated $2.7 million to $3.2 million, the Pew study said. For the 111 million households that make up the bottom 93 per cent, average net worth plunged 4 per cent, from $140,000 to an estimated $134,000.

In 2010, the first supposed year of economic recovery, 93 per cent of all pre-tax income gains went to the top 1 per cent of the American population (that is, any household earning more than $358,000).

Meanwhile, the most affluent 7 per cent of households owned 63 per cent of the nationҒs household wealth in 2011, up from 56 per cent in 2009.

These mind-numbing statistics are a mere reflection of millions of individual cases of pain and suffering wrought by the economic crisis, which seems to have only affected the middle and lower classes.

One consequence of the economic fallout is the record number of foreclosures on homes. Since 2007, almost 4 million homes have been lost in the foreclosure crisis, according to Forbes. At the same time, US home prices except in the most affluent neighborhoods ֖ remain essentially flat.

On top of this pummeling, Americans must digest the incredible news that many US corporations, some of which were rescued by taxpayer-funded bailout, are not paying any taxes on their earnings.

General Electric, for example, reported global profits of $14.2 billion for the year 2010, with $5.1 billion of the total deriving from its operations in the United States.

So how much did the granddaddy of US corporations pay in taxes to Uncle Sam? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. In fact, GE actually claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.

How was GE able to pull off that disappearing act?

Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore,Ӕ tooted The New York Times.

Is the rash of suicides across a broad spectrum of the American population a direct result of the wealth hoarding by the top income earners many of them US corporate ֑individuals? Since it is clear that Monsters Inc. have all but hijacked the American dream, not to mention the US political process, the evidence seems to point in that dark direction.

Clearly it is time for the United States to tame the beast of corporate power, and as was the case with the separation of church and state, we must prohibit business from unduly influencing our political leaders.

Our government representation is a precious and limited resource. It cannot be allowed to be squandered on entities that are already enjoying great wealth and power as it is.

Robert Bridge is the author of the book, Midnight in the American Empire, which discusses the dangerous consequences of excessive corporate power in the United States.



Suicide rate rose sharply among middle-aged Americans

By Atossa Araxia Abrahamian
May 3, 2013

The suicide rate among Americans aged 35 to 64 rose sharply between 1999 and 2010, a trend that could reflect the stresses of a sharp ECONOMIC DOWNTURN as well as other traditionally overlooked challenges of middle age, according to a federal report released on Thursday.

The annual rate of suicide rose 28 percent among Americans aged 35 to 64 during the study period, but changed little for older and younger people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The number of suicides among people in their 50s doubled in that time frame.

“Traditionally, we focus suicide prevention on adolescents and the older retired population, but the results of this study really emphasized the public health burden faced by the middle aged population,” said Dr. Thomas Simon, a researcher with the CDC’s Injury Center.

“There are unique risks at each developmental stage,” said Simon, pointing to bullying and confusion about sexuality in teenagers and getting used to retirement for seniors. “And then there are some particularly salient challenges for the middle-aged group: divorce, job loss, and dual care-giving.”

The increase in the U.S. over the past two decades may also reflect the influence of the weak economy - suicides generally rise during downturns - and an increase in the use of prescription opioid painkiller drugs, the CDC said.

The U.S. economy twice went into recession during the study period, briefly in 2001 and sharply during the so-called Great Recession of December 2007-June 2009 that sent the unemployment rate as high as 10 percent.

The pressures of the downturn took a heavy toll on the middle-aged, some of whom had to care for both children and aging parents, as well as deal with their own health problems, the study found.

Simon said that more research is needed to determine whether suicide rates among middle aged people will fall if the economy improves or demographic shifts eventually alleviate the dual childcare and elder-care burdens faced by the so-called “sandwich generation.”

The U.S. had an overall suicide rate of 12.4 for every 100,000 in 2010, according to CDC data. By comparison, the average for European Union countries was 10.2 per 100,000 inhabitants. Lithuania had the highest rate, with 29.4 suicides per 100,000 and Cyprus, Italy, Greece and Spain all had fewer than 6 suicides per 100,000 in 2010, according to Eurostat.

In the study, the CDC warned that the actual toll from suicide may be higher than it appears, as some possible suicides are classified as undetermined in the National Vital Statistics System, which provided the data on which the study was based.

The report drew attention to especially high increases of suicide among Native Americans, for whom the rate rose by 65 percent overall - 60 percent among men and more than 81 percent among women. The suicide rate rose 40 percent for non-Hispanic whites.

The most common ways people killed themselves were by using firearms, poison - often by overdosing on drugs - and suffocation, typically by hanging, a method for which the suicide rate increased by 81 percent between 1999 and 2010.

In 2010, there were 33,687 U.S. deaths from motor vehicle crashes, compared to 38,364 suicides, according to the CDC. (Reporting by Atossa Araxia Abrahamian; Editing by Scott Malone, Lisa Von Ahn and Chris Reese)



Is Cutthroat Capitalism Pushing a Growing Number of Baby Boomers to Suicide?
American baby boomers are taking their own lives like never before.

By Les Leopold
May 11, 2013

There’s no question about it--American baby boomers are taking their own lives like never before. Suicide rates in the United States jumped dramatically for 35- to 64-year-olds between 1999 and 2010, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These self-inflicted deaths increased from 13.7 per 100,000 to 17.6. As a result, in 2010 more people died from suicide (38,364) than from car accidents (33,687).

The increase in suicide is particularly acute for older folks: Those aged 50-54 years saw their rates increase from 20.6 per 100,000 to 30.7, a jump of 49.4%. For those aged 55-59 years the rates increased by 47.8%.  The rates for women, although much lower than for men, also climbed: “Among women,” the report states, “suicide rates increased with age, and the largest percentage increase in suicide rate was observed among women aged 6064 years (59.7%, from 4.4 to 7.0).”

Is Wall Street’s version of capitalism driving up our suicide rates?

We really don’t know why humans take their own lives. But we can get a sense of what events correlate with increasing and decreasing suicide rates. Ileana Arias, CDC deputy director, PROVIDES SOME SUGGESTIONS:

“It is the baby boomer group where we see the highest rates of suicide. There may be something about that group, and how they think about life issues and their life choices that may make a difference....The increase does coincide with a decrease in financial standing for a lot of families over the same time period.”

Dr. Arias is referring to research that shows a correlation between the rise of suicide rates and economic hard times. For example a 2001 STUDY by sociologist Augustine J. Kposowa found:

“After three years of followup, unemployed men were a little over twice as likely to commit suicide as their employed counterparts. Among men, the lower the socio-economic status, the higher the suicide risk. Among women, in each year of followup, the unemployed had a much higher suicide risk than the employed. After nine years of followup, unemployed women were over three times more likely to kill themselves than their employed counterparts.”

More Older Workers Join the Ranks of the Long-Term Unemployed

In winner-take-all capitalism, if your job disappears during a massive sustained job crunch, you will have a hard time finding another one. In fact, the older you are, the more likely you are to enter the ranks of the long-term unemployed (out of work a year or longer). 

The 2008 Wall Street financial meltdown killed more than 8 million jobs in matter of months. Reckless bankers, not the unemployed workers, caused the destruction of jobs:

By the end of 2011 more than 31 percent of the total unemployed had been jobless for a year or longer, according to a Pew Trust STUDY.

It also found that “unemployed older workers were the most likely to have been jobless for a year or more.”

At that time, “more than 42 percent of unemployed workers older than 55 had been out of work for at least a year, a higher percentage than any other age category.”

But wait, doesn’t egalitarian Scandinavia have even higher suicide rates?

For decades, Scandinavia was known for its egalitarian economies and its high suicide rates. In fact, for much of the post-WWII era, countries with more egalitarian societies seemed to have suffered higher rates of suicide. This led to a widely accepted narrative that described countries like Denmark, Norway and Sweden as having fundamentally flawed socialistic economies that kill the desire to take risks and live fully. Allegedly, their high taxes and cradle-to-grave social benefits harm the most fundamental instincts to compete, to create and to thrive. While some claimed the higher suicide rates came from the lack of sunshine during the long northern winters, the dominant explanation always centered on the evils of Scandinavian egalitarianism.

But blaming egalitarianism no longer works since we now have a new leader in suicides—ruthless, American-style capitalism. The most recent comparative suicide rate statistics for all age groups and genders show that we have higher suicides rates than Scandinavia: (per 100,000 people) :

Denmark 11.3
Norway 11.9
Sweden 11.9
U.S. 12.0

If we singly out the male suicide rates, normally three times higher than the female rates, the U.S. clearly leads the pack:

Denmark 15.3
Norway 15.7
Sweden 16.1
U.S. 20.0

Of course, die-hard anti-socialists still could argue that Scandinavia has become more capitalistic and unequal, while the U.S. is growing more socialistic thereby lowering the Scandinavian suicide rates while increasing ours. However, it’s painfully obvious that American INMEQUALITY is growing more extreme by the day. If the anti-egalitarian mythology were true, the U.S. should have the lowest suicide rates in the world. So maybe, it’s time to consider alternative explanations.

A counter-narrative to the egalitarian myth of suicide:

Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers gambled the economy into the ground. Through mergers, acquisitions and leveraged buyouts they’re still creating and recreating a form of capitalism that throws millions of older workers out on the street. To enrich themselves, financial elites helped to DESTROY defined PENSION PLANS as well as unions, which provide enormous protections for older workers. Wall Street also helps companies load up on debt that can bankrupt the pension funds that still exist. And now our financial barons are leading the charge for cuts in Social Security and Medicare to pay for the damage Wall Street has done to the economy. In short, the Wall Street version of capitalism makes life enormously insecure for the many, while enriching the few. 

If you’re a baby boomer who has spent a lifetime working hard, you could be hurting if Wall Street destroys your job and wipes out your savings. Because you are old, you could wind up lost among the long-term unemployed WITHOUT MUCH OF A CHANCE of ever finding a job again. At the very least, you are under a great deal of economic stress, the likes of which very few Scandinavians would ever experience. 

Do suicide rates go down when Americans fight back?

Perhaps some scholars should test the following hypothesis: Do suicide rates in America go down when empowering movements arise? Did the rate of suicide among African Americans decline during the civil rights movement? Did suicide rates among women and the LBGT communities also decline as these movements emerged? Was there even a dip when Occupy Wall Street took center stage?

In short, what would happen to our overall feeling of self-worth if a major movement emerged to take on the Wall Street plutocrats and their Washington enablers? What if unemployed workers were part of a mass movement for jobs and justice as they were in the 1930s? Wouldn’t that make us feel more hopeful? 

Well, a national movement to take back our country from Wall Street sure would bring a smile to this boomer. 

Les Leopold is the executive director of the Labor Institute in New York, and author of How to Make a Million Dollars an Hour: Why Hedge Funds Get Away with Siphoning Off America’s Wealth (J. Wiley and Sons, 2013).



22 veterans commit suicide each day: VA reportBy Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

By Bill Briggs
NBC News
February 1, 2013

An estimated 22 veterans committed suicide in America each day in 2010, according to a REPORT released Friday by the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs.

That rate has edged higher from 1999 when an estimated 20 veterans took their lives every day, the report noted. In 2007, the veteran suicide pace temporarily dipped to 18 per day.

Nearly 70 percent of all veteran suicides were among men and women aged 50 or older, the VA said.

“The mental health and well-being of our courageous men and women who have served the nation is the highest priority for VA, and even one suicide is one too many, VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said in a news release. ԓWe have more work to do and we will use this data to continue to strengthen our suicide prevention efforts and ensure all Veterans receive the care they have earned and deserve.

The report notes that while the numbers of veterans who die by suicide each day “has remained relatively stable over the past 12 years,” the overall percentage of people who die by suicide in America who are veterans has decreased slightly. The share of all suicides reported as “veterans” on state-issued death certificates was 25 percent in 1999 versus slightly more than 20 percent in 2010, according to VA researchers.

“This provides preliminary evidence that the programs initiated by VA are improving outcomes,” read an accompanying “executive summary” signed by Dr. Robert A. Petzel, the VA’s under secretary for health. “As long as veterans die by suicide, we must continue to improve and provide even better services and care.”

Also Friday, the U.S. Army released its monthly suicide report, offering a preliminary tally for 2012 in that branch: 325 “potential” suicides among active and reserve troops ԗ the highest number in history, Army officials noted. More than 50 of those deaths remain “under investigation,” awaiting a final ruling. If that bleak total remains at 325, the toll in 2012 would have risen by 15 percent over 2011 when the Army sustained 283 suicides.

Meanwhile, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a nonprofit advocacy group representing more than 200,000 members, said the nation should be “outraged” by rate of veterans who are taking their own lives nearly one per hour.

“This VA suicide report is the most important piece of data to be released since 2007,” said IAVA founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff. “Our leaders in Washington need to accelerate efforts to shrink wait times for mental health care and find more creative solutions like the Veteran Crisis Line” 800-273-TALK.

“The country should be outraged that we are allowing this tragedy to continue The trends are headed in the wrong direction,” Rieckhoff added. “As veterans, we at IAVA understand the spectrum of challenges facing veterans transitioning home, including the struggle with invisible wounds. One thing is clear, we need more research and more collaboration.”

VA leaders vowed “immediate actions” to curb the suicide rate among former service members. The top strategy on the agency’s list: A task force already established ח that will “provide recommendations for innovating mental health care” within the VA system,” VA officials said.

Friday’s report also identified female veterans and Vietnam-era veterans as two demographic groups that require extra urgency when it comes to suicidal behaviors. VA officials said they will be developing “additional training programs” to help better target those segments of the U.S. veteran population.

The veteran-suicide statistics are likely to become a topic on Feb. 13 when the U.S. House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs holds a hearing to explore whether veterans are “overcoming barriers to quality mental health care.”



Suicide and the Unemployed

By Paul Solman
May 2013

The relationship between unemployment and suicide is well established. But is the persistence of long-term unemployment an added factor in the rising suicide rate these days, especially for older workers? Paul Solman responds to a viewer’s comment relating to this PBS NewsHour story originally broadcast on May 3.

Paul Solman: Amidst a cascade of correspondence in reaction to our recent broadcast STORY ON AGE DISCRIMINATION AND LONG-TERM UNEMPLOYMENT, we received this email from “Karen” in Tennessee:

Why aren’t people talking about age discrimination at a major level? I have been unemployed for more than five years. I have had training to add new skills to two degrees. Training and education mean nothing if no one will hire you. I live in a “right to work” state where corporations can do anything and government is in collusion in perpetrating this endemic discrimination ...

Companies aren’t afraid of older workers—they can and do anything they want. I have done everything a person can do to get a job and survive. I’m a woman alone and nobody cares. That’s why the suicides have gone up drastically.

Karen’s email, and particularly her last sentence, reminded me of a host of data, both old and new.

The U.S. ranks near the middle of the global suicide listings, according to the World Health Organization and consistently comes in around 10th when it comes to self-reported happiness, behind only the Scandinavian countries, Canada, Switzerland and Holland

But the suicide rate is rising in the United States, up by something like a sixth since the late ‘90s. (See the bottom half of Figure 1 on page six of the paper we linked to.)

In the latest year for which there are good numbers, 2011, there were about 38,000 suicides in America, compared to 32,000 motor vehicle deaths and 15,000 homicides.

A 2011 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the suicide rate from 1928 to 2007 rose and fell with the economy, spiking when the Great Depression began and reaching its all-time high in 1933, plummeting during World War II, rising again during the deep recession of the 1974-75 and the recession of the early ‘80s, though peaking a few years after unemployment hit its post-war peak in 1982. The suicide rate dropped to its lowest level ever in the year 2000, when the dot-com boom was at its zenith and unemployment had bottomed out at 4 percent.

But ever since the dot-com collapse, as the chart above illustrates, America’s suicide rate has been rising. And just 10 days ago in The New York Times, researchers David Stuckler of Oxford and Sanjay Basu of Stanford summarized the findings of their new book, “The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills.” They wrote in part:

“People looking for work are about twice as likely to end their lives as those who have jobs. In the United States, the suicide rate, which had slowly risen since 2000, jumped during and after the 2007-09 recession. In a new book, we estimate that 4,750 ‘excess’ suicides—that is, deaths above what pre-existing trends would predict—occurred from 2007 to 2010. Rates of such suicides were significantly greater in the states that experienced the greatest job losses. Deaths from suicide overtook deaths from car crashes in 2009.”

For the purposes of this post, the most salient fact may be that of all segments of the population during the span of time between 1928 and 2007, suicide rates of Americans aged 55-64 experienced the most significant decline.

A few weeks ago, a Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) study reported a startling reverse of the long-term trend with regard to suicide and age; among men and women age 55-64, there was a dramatic increase in rate of suicides from 1999 to 2010.

The question, then: what has changed to reverse this trend?

As Stuckler and Basu pointed out in the Times:

“The correlation between unemployment and suicide has been observed since the 19th century. People looking for work are about twice as likely to end their lives as those who have jobs.”

But why, suddenly, has suicide risen among people age 55-64? As a journalist, my answer relies on what I call anecdata.

After doing a story in 2010 on the “99ers” - Americans out of work for 99 weeks or more—here is a relevant quote from an email we received:

“It would be DISHONEST OF ME TO SAY THAT I HAVE NOT CONSIDERED THAT SUICIDE may be my only way out if I cannot soon find work. I and millions of others have few other options.”

And here’s another:

“Although I can’t consider suicide, I understand where these people are at!”

As regular readers of this page know, we’ve been chronicling the fate of the unemployed and underemployed since January of 2011, when we introduced our own measure, “U-7”. And U-7 has indeed come down some, from 16.7 percent back then to 16 percent last month. But compare “average weeks unemployed,” then to now. The number has actually risen-- from 33.8 weeks in January of 2011 to 36.5 weeks in April of 2013.

And, as we reported in the broadcast story mentioned at the top of this post, for Americans 55 and older, it takes about a year on average to find work, longer than for any other age group. Nick Corcodilos, who answers questions on this page’s Tuesday “Ask the Headhunter” column, also has elaborated on the issue of older worker unemployment and blatant age discrimination.

One of the unforgettable lessons of statistics is that correlation does not equal causation. But when the data show older (but not old) Americans out of work longer than others and older (but not old) Americans committing suicide at a higher rate than they have in almost a century, how can you help but wonder if the frustration of the former isn’t contributing to the latter?

Finally, a few excerpts from viewer emails from to the story that occasioned this post:

Anonymous: The Friday May 3 show about workers 50 or older who are unemployed resonated with me ... My heart breaks for all of us unemployed and underemployed.

Dale Kurow—New York, N.Y.: Is there a fund that is helping the older long term unemployed?

Cindy Grossman—Newton, Mass.: I was thrilled to see your segment about age discrimination. Finally, the truth on national TV. However, that story needs to tie into the unending comments by so-called experts that people need to keep working until long after age 65. The fact is that even if people are healthy enough to work longer, they cannot get jobs due to age discrimination ... “Expert” after “expert” on NPR and on other media ignore this ugly truth when they go on about people needing to work far past age 65.

Lili Pintea-Reed—Jamestown, N.Y.: Paul, In reference to your slough off of the question “are people unemployed due to age discrimination.”

Here are two interviews I had over the last year:

Example No. 1: I was asked outright by the interviewer, “Why are you trying to take a job away from someone who needs it? Don’t you have a pension or something?” Answer: No I don’t have a pension, etc., and why would that matter?

Example No. 2: As I was waiting to be interviewed for a job I overheard my interviewer say to her boss, “There [is] someone out there that should be your boss.” I just got up and left I was so angry.

I am 58 and need a job like everyone else. I figure to work until 70. What on earth are we older workers to do?

Flo Samuels—Hayward, Calif.: I agree that employers should want an employee who will make their business more profitable. Unfortunately that approach, at least in my experience, also makes them feel they have been inadequate as a manager and they certainly don’t want someone new showing them up. Been interviewed and not hired, been hired and not allowed to do what got me hired. Explain how to overcome that.



Radio host Thom Hartmann argues conservative policies drive people to suicide

By Jessica Chasmar
Washinghton Times
August 4, 2013

Nationally syndicated radio host Thom Hartmann wrote an article Saturday blaming the corporate right-wing agenda for driving thousands of Americans to suicide.

The very same austerity policies that Republicans in Washington are constantly pushing on us are the same policies that are driving Americans to kill themselves,Ӕ he wrote.

Mr. Hartmann said that over the past decade, the nations suicide rate has risen a staggering 23 percent.

“The fact is, Americas suicide rate is on the rise, and Conservative economic policies are to blame,” he said. In a study released in May, Professors David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu of Oxford University in England found that suicide rates in both the U.S. and U.K. increase when working class wages and wealth decline.”

In their report, Mr. Stuckler and Mr. Basu concluded that, what we’ve learned is that the real danger to public health is not recession per se, but austerity.

“That’s right,” the radio host continued. “The very same austerity policies that Republicans in Washington are constantly pushing on us are the same policies that are driving Americans to kill themselves.”

Mr. Hartmann then argued that “in order to stop the epidemic of austerity-driven suicides,” the government needs to invest and spend more, not less.

“Remember, when Republicans talk about how bad the economy is, they’re bragging,” he said. “Conservative economic policies, from austerity to sequester to Reaganomics, kill people. Now that the science is in, and irrefutable, its time to wake Americans up to this deadly con game.”


Posted by Elvis on 05/03/13 •
Section Dying America
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