What do you make of these suicide stats?

Here is a bunch of stats on suicide in the US. About halfway down the page you can look at a long table of suicide rates state by state.

I find it really interesting that suicide rates seem pretty nearly inversely proportional to population density. The more crowded the population, the less likely suicide will be. That seems really counter-intuitive to me, and and makes me doubt the prophetic wisdom of Shockwave Rider.

My not well thought out thesis is that people do to these empty places to get away from society, and they find they can’t get far enough, and end up blowing their heads off. Or, if they’re born there, they either kill themselves out of boredom or because they can’t escape.

Other things I was ignorant of – 1.3% of all deaths are by suicide! That seems almost unbelievably high to me. Men commit suicide at nearly 5 times the rate as women. Though a note says that women attempt suicide 3 times as often as men. So apparently they suck at it, or men excel at it.

Interesting as it is, there appears to be some problems with the data. For example, the table of suicide by method doesn’t add up. Firearms account for 55% and “All Other Methods” is 49%.

I read from Canadian gov’t literature that one of the reasons people in the country kill themselves more than people in cities is because they have greater access to guns.

This has two effects. 1) Even if the mood persists a long time, the decision to kill yourself is often momentary. If you waited a bit, you’d likely still feel badly but wouldn’t do it. Having a gun allows you to go from decision to action very quickly and easily.

  1. Guns are very effective. Attempts at suicides using guns are more likely to result in death than, say, medication*. You have to distinguish between attempted suicide rates and suicide rates, your statistics only talks about suicides I believe. The rates of attempted suicide in the country and city would likely be nearer each other. Also, attempted suicides are going to be much more underreported than suicides.
    *That’s the same reason you see a difference between men and women. Women prefer softer, less effective methods. Men prefer more brutal, effective methods.

I don’t know whether that’s true in the US. But surely there would be a way to control for that, if only by comparing urban and rural suicide rates using other methods.

I find it surprising that jumping from bridges or building barely makes the list as a method. It would seem to me an even more certain method than a bullet. Anybody in a large city can find someplace 10 or more stories high and take a leap,

An interesting set of data.

I wonder why Alaska consistently ranks so high in the charts?

And these are pre-Palin numbers too!

Wow. The Mountain West really represents. Every single state in the top 10.

  1. Montana
  2. New Mexico
  3. Wyoming
  4. Colorado
  5. Idaho
  6. Utah

Yeah, very strange. So what’s your theory?

I have a second one – walking back and forth to school, uphill, both ways.

Or maybe the militias are killing shitloads of people and successfully disguising the murders as suicides?

It had been years since I have looked at the stats, but Nevada has always been right at or very near the top—They say between a strong gun culture, unlimited access to alcohol (Nevada is a 24/7/365 state when it comes to buying booze) the influence of gambling and the vast, lonely, wide-open spaces, Nevada is apparently a perfect storm for someone thinking of self-harm.

It’s too scary.

My cousin is an alcoholic who got into one bad relationship after another, then decided he needed to get out of his “unhealthy environment”.

So he moved to Vegas. Did I mention he’s an idiot?

Problem is, if you’re wrong and you don’t die from the attempt, not only are you worse off than before, but it’s almost certain you won’t be physically capable of trying again.

Also, pain. Unless you really screw up, guns kill you instantly. In a fall, even if the trauma is lethal, you could remain alive with your intestines splattered all over the pavement for a few seconds or a few minutes. And a few minutes spent in agonizing pain can seem like forever.

Just a musing, not based on anything, but I wonder if people in more populated areas are more likely to have more/more convenient access to mental health care, and if living in denser populations means that an individual is more likely to be around other people who might intervene, directly or indirectly – either in the moment, or as the individual is growing more suicidal.

Something I remember from some professional training is that the high rate of unsuccessful suicides by women is driven in part by the higher rate of women who intentionally (even if subconsciously) fail – they are more likely to use a suicide attempt as a “cry for help.” (The tendency for “softer” methods that MichaelEmouse mentioned is the other big factor.)

To throw in another creepy suicide observation, there was a study of people who jumped off the Golden Gate bridge and survived. Apparently it is very hard to survive that jump, but every once in a great while, someone hits a current in such a way that it buffers the fall. So there aren’t very many people who survive. But in this admittedly small group, EVERY ONE said as they were falling, they regretted their decision to jump. Now of course, this is all reported after the fact so who knows how their perception changed after the event, but ever since I read that, the notion that the successful suicides also regretted their actions in their final moments has haunted me.

I think in lower population areas, not only is there less access to mental health care, but when you’re lonely, you’re damn lonely.

My mum, who used to be in nursing, said it was heartbreaking when a young woman would be admitted having overdosed on pills as a ‘cry for help’ and end up dying from liver failure.

I can make a hat, a broach, a pterodactyl…

From The Journal of Trama (there’s a fun one):

And if you feel like you don’t fit in, and you’re in a city, you may never find a group you do fit in with, but you’re at least surrounded by examples of other people who don’t quite fit in, either. That might be some encouragement to keep going - it is, after all, not just you. But in a small town where everyone else is putting up a good front and acting like they fit in? Well, you might start thinking it really is just you. (If you’re lucky, of course, in that small town where everyone knows you, somebody will tell you they love you for who you are and make you believe it. But not everyone is so lucky.)

I’ve read the stats about firearm ownership and suicide, too. There was some study about bridges and suicide. They took a bridge where there had been a lot of suicide deaths and looked at it closely. They decided that maybe this particular bridge’s railings were so low that it made it attractive to suicides, so they raised the railings really high. Naysayers said that the suicides would just find another bridge, but that didn’t happen. That led some people to wonder if there was something so impulsive about suicide under a lot of circumstances that if you just didn’t have the tempting methods around, the rates would go down. So there was a study that found that if people didn’t have guns, the rates of suicide went down even though there are other methods of suicide. I don’t know if I’ll be able to find that study.

I had my story a bit messed up, but the gist is right. Here.