Eric Abrahamson notes on the Black Hills Knowledge Network that South Dakota saw a substantial increase in the number of quitters over the past several years. A new CDC report on suicide finds that from 1999 to 2010, South Dakota's suicide rate rose 48.0%, to 23.5 per 100,000 population. The national suicide rate among folks aged 35 to 64 rose 28.4% to 17.6 per 100,000.
In Wyoming, the suicide rate is 31.1 per 100,000; in Minnesota, 16.0.
Suicide increased in 39 states in every region of the nation. But interestingly, the Northeast, where we Midwesterners like to think life is more complicated with all those crowded cities, has the lowest regional suicide rate of 13.9 per 100,000. The Midwest (in which the CDC includes South Dakota) is closer to average at 17.3. Those warmer, wider-open places where America's population has been shifting for the last four decades, the South and West, see higher suicide rates of 18.4 and 19.5.
In 2010, more than twice as many Americans killed themselves as killed others. Their preferred weapon of self-termination remains firearms, which accounted for 47% of suicides, followed by suffocation (23%) and poisoning (22%). Men who commit suicide have a much stronger preference to end it with a gun than do women: 52% of men committing suicide did so with a gun, compared to 31% of women committing suicide. 42% of women committing suicide in 2010 poisoned themselves.
I don't look at those gun numbers and think, "Clearly we need to get rid of guns" any more than I look at the female poisoning rates and think we need to ban pills and cleaners. But we should look at increasing numbers of people chickening out and higher rates of suicide in South Dakota and Wyoming than in Minnesota, Iowa, New York, and California and ask what economic and cultural feature make life unbearable for so many more people here.
We've talked a lot this past week about what makes people move from South Dakota to Minnesota and what might get them to move back. The answer to that question is likely tied to the question of why South Dakotans choose to end their lives more frequently than Minnesotans.