Sunday, February 13, 2005

leaving las vegas

A graphic from a great NYT story today on suicide in rural America:

Presumably, Nevada has its own, anomalous, explanation for high suicide rates. As for the elevated risk of suicide in rural areas more generally, the article cites a number of different causes that are seen by experts as being responsible: guns, the lower quality of mental health services in rural areas, and various "cultural" factors. Myself, I would need to be statistically convinced that the difference wasn't entirely the result of differences in the availability and mundaneness of guns. Take a depressed male with a firearm and comfort in using it, and you've basically made death as convenient of an impulse buy as an ill-considered book buy for people who have Amazon One-Click purchasing activated.

I suppose what I feel is that particularly toxic combination is the combination of high rate of ambient firearms in combination with high rates of alcohol consumption. Brayden has a link to a service in which people can prevent themselves from drunk-dialing someone, now if only there could be a service where people can be kept from using their own guns to drunk-dispatch themselves.

(The NYT story coincides, incidentally, with jnsys's post about a suicide in my own rural hometown. There are virtues to the rural small-town life, to be sure, but, honestly: no matter what ends up happening to me on the quirky life path I've chosen for myself, I feel just so lucky/grateful/happy that I managed to get myself out of that place.)


Anonymous said...

Access to and comfort with firearms certainly plays a role. However, what about urban/suburban/rural differences in the opportunity to engage in successful self-destructive behaviors that are not counted as suicide? Just one example, it might be the case that a depressed individual self-medicating with alcohol has a greater chance of killing themselves in a drunk driving accident in a more populated area.

Anonymous said...

That's true. There are lots more options for suicide in urban areas. More access to tall buildings to jump off of, more traffic to (accidentally) jump in front of, more high crime areas to provoke a sleazebag to murder you (aka, suicide by dumbass), more cops to provoke into killing you if you commit certain crimes (aka, suicide by cop), etc.

Frankly, I don't understand why suicide isn't more frequent in the Deep South. I mean, it's the Deep South. If you lived in the rural Deep South, wouldn't you want to kill yourself too?

jeremy said...

Anon: Your line of thinking isn't that far from some people in academia I know. For them, it's hard to understand why everyone stuck living outside of one of the suitably-sophisticated major metropolitan areas doesn't just down a bottle of Liquid Plum'r and call it a night.

Anonymous said...

Given the prevalence of guns in the South, the colors should reflect higher than they do. Gambling may be a variable in Nevada no addressed. If one goes for broke, one may as well go all the way. I wonder too about all the overdosing in big cities and how much of that is suicide V just another overdose. The colors might change a bit. I think it is too easy to dump it all off on guns.

brady said...

Ahem. Anon #2: Say what you will about the rural Deep South but it beats the hell out of the rural Midwest, between the weather and the militias. Call me crazy, but I'd take gently rolling hills full of kudzu and live oaks over the bleak flat grey spindly-treed plains anyday.

Also, ditto to Jeremy's reply above. The thing that drives me the craziest about academia these days is the unrelenting snobbery and smug attitude in regards to places that aren't the eastern seaboard, Chicago, or the west coast. While I'm tempted to just say, "$%)^ y'all" or "It's funny that a bunch of leftover sixties radicals with Dylan joneses wouldn't be caught dead in the part of Minnesota he's from" and then beat such people about the head and neck with a hardback copy of a Faulkner novel, I hold on to the hope that someday the educated elite will pull their heads out of their asses on that score.

Corey said...

I have a thought and a question:

1) The thought... If suicide is primarily a function of access to (and familiarity) with firearms, then the suicide rate should be higher in hi-firearm counties of low-suicide states.

2) The question... Is there a state and regional variation in coroners willingness to classify a death as a suicide (as opposed to accident, un-natural cause, whatever)?

I'm trying to trace down the source data for that map, but have been unsuccessful thus far.


Anonymous said...

i fart on the rural deep south