Editorial: Will improved economy dull suicide spike?

May. 05, 2013 @ 10:22 PM

More people are dying of suicide than car accidents.

Let that thought sink in for a moment and consider the numbers released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday. In 2010, 33,687 people died in motor vehicle crashes, while 38,364 took their own lives.

The suicide rate among Americans 35 to 64 jumped by about 30 percent to 17.6 deaths per 100,000 people. More middle-aged people are killing themselves and many of them are men, especially in their 50s.

Some experts blame it on the nature of the generation born after World War II, according to an article by The New York Times.

“It is the baby boomer group where we see the highest rates of suicide,” said Ileana Arias, deputy director of the CDC. “There may be something about that group, and how they think about life issues and their life choices that may make a difference.”

The spike may also be connected to the country’s economic struggles in the past 10 years.

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

Plus, prescription drugs and hangings have become a growing cause of those suicides. Most are committed with firearms, but poisoning deaths and overdoses are up 24 percent while hangings are up 81 percent.

Making it even worse for boomers, Arias said, is the unique stresses placed on them as they care for aging parents while also supporting their adult children through their own financial and emotional struggles.

But the federal jobs report issued during the same week as these depressing suicide numbers should give us all reasons to feel more optimistic: Employers added 165,000 jobs in April and drove the unemployment rate down to a four-year low of 7.5 percent.

We’re down to 4.4 million Americans who have been without work for more than six months, a significant improvement from the 2010 peak of 6.7 million unemployed.

More people working means more money moving around and increased demand for goods and services.

Sung Wong Sohn, an economist at the Martin Smith School of Business at California State University, told the AP: “Consumers are feeling better. The decent employment gains will add to the optimism and help lift future spending.”

So, we hope this light at the end of the tunnel means we’ll see those suicide statistics trend downward.

But if you’re feeling desperate and need help, don’t hesitate to check out your options at suicidehotlines.com/northcarolina.html. You can also call 800-510-9132 for the area’s local suicide hotline.

Stick around and see how we rebound from the rough years.