Thursday, August 27, 2009

Montana Used to be Number 1

From the site StateMaster, we have the 10 highest and 10 lowest states for suicide. The figure presented here is per 100,000 of population. I think they speak for themselves.

# 1 Wyoming: 21.4
# 2 Montana: 19.2
# 3 Alaska: 18.7
# 4 Nevada: 18
# 5 New Mexico: 17.8
# 6 Oregon: 16.3
# 7 Colorado: 15.6
# 8 Idaho: 15.2
# 9 West Virginia: 14.6
# 10 Arizona: 14.1

# 41 Minnesota: 9.7
# 42 Ohio: 9.4 per
# 42 California: 9.4
# 44 Maryland: 8.8
# 45 Illinois: 7.9
# 46 Rhode Island: 7.8
# 47 Connecticut: 7.7
# 48 Massachusetts: 6.8
# 49 New Jersey: 6.7
# 50 District of Columbia: 6.5
# 51 New York: 6.1

What's your opinion? Why would the top 10 and the bottom 10 be almost perfectly divided between rural and urban? One thing that differentiates these two groups is gun ownership and gun control laws, the rural states where the most suicides take place have lax gun laws and lots of guns in lots of homes. The urban states which have the lowest suicide rates tend to have stricter gun control laws and fewer guns in the homes.

Can you think of any other explanation? It seems like the availability of guns has a major impact on the number of suicides. What's your opinion?

Some pro-gun folks like to eliminate gun suicides from gun violence. It's no wonder because in many places the suicides outnumber the murders. If you leave the suicides out, the numbers don't look nearly as bad. I say all gun violence, criminal, accidental and suicidal must be considered because in many cases if the gun had not been available, the results would not have been so drastic.

What's your opinion? Why does Montana have 3 times the suicide rate of New Jersey?

Please leave a comment.


  1. The data needs to be compared with other sources like income and average unemployment rates. Suicide is a mental health issue so you will also have to look into social services provided for by in those states.
    Don't cherry pick the evidence........

  2. Of the top 10, with the exception of WV, they're all frontier and western states, and the bottom 10, with the exception of MN, OH, and CA are eastern Atlantic states and Districts, so the urban/rural dichotomy should be looked at with that in mind as well. As far as the gun angle, I don't know that the lax gun laws figure into it because I really believe if someone is so desperate as to want to end his or her life he or she would find a way to do it regardless. It's something to think about, but I'm not sure it's a major factor.

    As a West Virginian, I can tell you that I believe the high suicide rate is due to hopelessness. Now, you can criticize that fact and speak ill of those who live with that hopelessness, but that fact is that it's there. It seems to be part and parcel of the WV character.

    Mike, if you ever want insight into the "mind" of West Virginia check out the collected short stories of Breece Pancake. He was a great short story writer from West Virginia who committed suicide, but his stories show better than any sociological or anthropological study ever could what it's like to be a West Virginian or to what it's like to live there.

  3. Thank you il principe and zirgar, I've made those same comments before, but mikeb doesn't want to listen to reason from me.

  4. "if the gun had not been available, the results would not have been so drastic"

    Right...because there aren't a million other ways to easily and decisively take yourself out.

  5. Is the high suicide rate in Alaska anything to do with Sarah Palin?

    Jus askin

  6. If you're going to try to make a point with that, you need the suicide with a gun statistic. But I don't generally think suicide is a good reason to restrict firearms. My opinion, as a more libertarianish person, is that a person has a right to take their life if they want to.

  7. Japan has a much higher suicide rate than the U.S. and no guns.

    Likewise Norway.

    And the US doesn't have a higher suicide rate than the Western world in general.

    I don't doubt there are a few cases where the fact that someone could point a gun at their head and be done vs. having to find pills or a rope made a difference, but if you've worked with suicidal people (I unfortunately have) you quickly learn that there are those who make the decision and then find a way to do it, and those who make the claim their going to do it and then find ways to not make it work. People in between are very few.

    But in any case, should we be basing our civil liberties on how people will use them to hurt themselves? Will we diarm the woman who wants to defend her children because some other idiot might end his life and just might have an easier time of it with a gun?

    I don't consider the suicide rate, gun or otherwise, even part of the debate.

  8. Thanks for the comments everybody. I just posted the general suicide stats because I couldn't find a list of the gun-only suicides.

    What a lot of people think, and I find convincing, is that guns are the preferred method of suicide for people who are serious about doing it, especially men. Another idea is that attempted suicides with pills or razors or ropes or exhaust fumes are less likely to be successful than using a gun. Another idea is that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. This touches on the waiting period for guns which saves lives for this reason, some suicidal people are going through a brief crisis and are aided in survival by the non-availability of guns.

    Of course people who really are determined to kill themselves can find other ways to do it, no one disputes that. But when the most efficient means of doing it is available, more people die.

    Thanks Zirgar for your comments about hopelessness. I don't think that mind set is lacking in the major urban areas though, among law abiding citizens who are the main victims of suicide. I think what's lacking in the urban areas is the availability of guns. I'm not talking about gangs in Newark, I'm talking about the normal households. Compare Wyoming with New York or Montana with New Jersey.

  9. WISQARS lists deaths by suicides for most every available means, by state, age, sex, etc. Not only that, they list self-inflicted injuries that don't result in death using by the same means. We've told you this lots of times before, and linked to the figures. Why you couldn't find them, I don't know.

  10. "This touches on the waiting period for guns which saves lives for this reason"

    And I take it you have evidence to back this up.....

    Oh wait, you never do.

  11. Mike W. said, ""This touches on the waiting period for guns which saves lives for this reason"

    And I take it you have evidence to back this up.....

    Oh wait, you never do."

    Actually Mike, sometimes I do. In this case there are studies done by Prof. Wintemute which are very compelling. You can look them up if you like.

    But, doesn't it stand to reason that a three day waiting period would affect some of the impulsive first-time gun criminals? Or is this one of those things that you refuse to admit without "proof," because you don't give an inch in the debate?

  12. MikeB,

    You want to interfere with a fundamental right to defend ourselves yet we should go on your word alone, on your version of 'common sense'?

    Shouldn't you have to show that there is overwhelming evidence supporting your position before even suggesting a restriction of our right to defend ourselves?

    Time and time again, 'common sense' has been shown to be wrong, that is why people insist on proof.

    It isn't that we are unwilling to give an inch, we are simply unwilling to give any inch just because you or anyone else thinks it would be a good idea.

    I think it would be a good idea for all people living abroad to lose their U.S. citizenship. After all, if you aren't living here, isn't it common sense that you are voting for things that don't affect you.

    So, what do you think? Give up your citizenship because I think it is a commonsense idea?

  13. A bit of perspective is perhaps in order here. Let's look at the most extreme spread: New York vs. Wyoming. That means we're talking about 6.1 suicides per 100,000 vs. 24.1 suicides per 100,000. Granted, a ratio of 3.5 to 1 sounds dramatic, but what we're really talking about is .0061% of the population committing suicide vs. .0241%. That means that in New York, the percentage of population that will not commit suicide is 99.9939%. Moving to Wyoming, that percentage "plummets" to 99.9759%.

    I'm not a betting man, but I sure as hell would be if I could find a wager where my chance of success is 99.9759%. Actually, since I'm not the suicidal type (I've never once committed suicide), I wouldn't particularly worry about it wherever I lived.

    If I ever do commit suicide, it will be because I made the choice to do so, and I can hardly be upset that my choices aren't interfered with by the government.

    Actually, in the darkest days during my period of coming to grips with being paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, I never became suicidal, but I gave the subject enough thought to rule out using a gun--I refuse to give the anti-gun bedwetters the statistical ammunition. Now, with this information, I guess I'd have to make a trip to New York to kill myself.

  14. 45superman, I wonder who's doing the spinning here, the guy who says Montanans are 3.5 times more likely to kill themselves than New Yorkers or the guy who says that in both places you've got a 99.9% chance not to do it.

    Thanks for that other angle on it and for the personal background. I don't agree with your gun politics but I have respect for you and I say anyone who can deal with what you've dealt with is a hero, nothing short of that.

    Thanks for commenting over here again.