According to a new study from the National Center for Health Statistics, the suicide rate in the United States has risen dramatically over the past decade-and-a-half.
Adjusting for age, it jumped 24 percent between 1999 and 2014, with the biggest increases coming after 2006. Thirteen out of every 100,000 people now kill themselves, making suicide one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the entire country.
This is a serious public health crisis that needs to be fixed, and while we can’t bring back the people we’ve already lost, there is something we can do as a country to make sure even more people don’t take their own lives.
And that something is to stop supporting right-wing austerity policies because economic deprivation is one of the contributing factors that drive people to take their own life.
Seriously, I’m not kidding. It’s a well-documented sociological fact.
Numerous studies have found a strong connection between right-wing economic policies and suicide.
Recent research from sociologists David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, for example, found that suicide rates in both the US and UK increase when working class wages and wealth decline. Things were particularly bad during the recession period here in the US when, according to the study’s authors, there were 4,750 “excess” suicides.
Another study, this time out of Australia, discovered a similar pattern in that country. It found that almost 35,000 extra suicides occurred when the “Tories” (Australian slang for right-wingers) controlled the government.
This isn’t just something that happens in the English-speaking world, either.
When right-wing austerity policies began to ravage Greece in 2010, the suicide rate jumped almost 18 percent. In Athens alone, it soared to 25 percent.
The same thing happened in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. In a rush to switch the former communist country over to the free market, economists forced it go through shock doctrine-style privatization. The result was a sharp rise in suicides, heart attacks and alcohol deaths.
Obviously, right-wing economic policies don’t cause every suicide. Some people kill themselves because they have already-existing mental health problems. Others kill themselves because of the shock of sudden personal tragedy.
But even so, there’s no question that right-wing economic policies, otherwise known as Reaganomics, worsen these problems.
When people are unemployed, underemployed or working dead-end jobs for starvation wages, they’re more likely to suffer from depression. They’re also more likely to resort to hard drugs to help them cope with the pain of economic deprivation. Meanwhile, the compounding effect of austerity cuts to public health services exacerbate the situation.
There’s a dark irony here, because Reaganomics is itself form of slow-burning national suicide.
Think about it: Reaganomics has crushed the unions that created the middle class, bankrupted the federal government with massive tax cuts for the rich and sent our trade deficit sky-high with so-called “free trade deal” after “free trade deal.”
Oh yeah, and thanks to deregulation, Reaganomics has also left us much more vulnerable to financial crises, like the one that almost completely took down the world economy eight years.
So whatever way you look at it, right-wing economic policies are a raw deal.
Not only are they killing our country, they’re contributing to the reasons why more and more Americans are killing themselves.
Even if you don’t care about things like, you know, good wages and fair taxation rates, that fact alone should make you angry. It’s time repudiate Reaganomics once and for all.
By the way, if you’re having dark or suicidal thoughts, you’re not alone. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to speak to someone who can help. It’s open 24/7.