The demographics of suicide
Anthony Bourdain hung himself today in Paris, France. This tragedy has brought the issue of suicide back into the mainstream, where it will be quickly forgotten again, probably by tomorrow.
A new report shows that the suicide rate has climbed nearly 30% in the last 20 years.
There is a reason why suicide, eventhough it's victims dwarf murder victims, is largely ignored.
It's the demographics, as I explained before.
Males kill themselves at about four times the rate for females, and represent 78.3% of all U.S. suicides. White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2016.
But it's not just a matter of gender and race.
There's an even more important demographic that explains the indifference to this public health crisis.
The study found that the suicide rate was ten times higher in men of lower socioeconomic status than in affluent men.
So poor men are killing themselves. No one who doesn't know those victims personally will ever care (as also proven by the victims of all our wars).
Now if wealthy people were offing themselves, that would be another story.
One factor is the increasing “‘feminisation’ of employment (shift towards a more service-oriented economy),” which may cause men to feel like they have less room in the professional world. The authors write that “men in lower socioeconomic groups now have less access to jobs that allow for the expression of working-class masculinity, and have thus lost a source of masculine identity and ‘pride.’” Yet losing a job may still make men feel like a “double failure, since they are unable to meet two central demands of the masculine role: being employed; and ‘providing’ for the family.”
Another reason that this suicide epidemic will continue to be ignored is that 100% of the blame is put onto the victim. The idea that the victim was in his right mind is never, and can never, be considered.
But when you have one small slice of the population accounting for a majority of suicides, the logical conclusion isn't mental illness. The logical conclusion is that outside forces are causing this epidemic.
54% of suicide victims weren't diagnosed with a mental illness.
For instance, black men account for a disproportionately large percentage of murder victims and prison inmates. We can either blame black men for their fates (i.e. that they are all thugs), or admit that something is seriously wrong with the current system (i.e. there is racism in the system).
The same is true for poor, white men. Is mental illness rampant with poor white men, but not wealthy white men? Or are there flaws in our economic/political system that are being ignored?
Which is more likely?
Most experts think that the number of suicide victims is dramatically undercounted. Consider suicide-by-cop as one example.
Profile of Suicide by Cop Subjects: American Association of Suicidology (2014)
95% were male, 5% female
54% of men were unemployed
29% of men did not have housing
We could all keep pretending that each of these tragedies were isolated from each other, and that they were all mentally ill.
Or that we are witnessing an obvious structural flaw in our economic/political system that has real world consequences.
What will it take for general society to admit this?