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South Dakota Suicide Rate Increasing, Higher Than National Average

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.


  1. Nick Nemec 2013.05.12

    Might it be the remoteness of some parts of the country cause a loneliness that is too much to bear?

  2. Charlie Johnson 2013.05.12

    One would have to venture that the culture of SD against gays and lesbians has a harmful affect especially with young adults.

  3. bob newland 2013.05.12

    The question is not, "Why do so many commit suicide?"

    Rather, it is, "Why do more people not kill themselves?"

  4. Jenny 2013.05.12

    The economy, low wages, (SD is the land of low wages) bullying in our schools (which had been made worse by cyberbullying), farming being one of the most depressing stressful jobs, alcoholism. Indian reservation suicide statistics have always been alarmingly high. Also, depression is still seen as a shameful disease to have, to be too embarrassed and in denial to get help for.

  5. Jenny 2013.05.12

    Instead of focusing on why individual states have higher or lower suicide statistics, the real focus should be on suicide prevention as a whole.
    Bob Newland, are you promoting suicide? What kind of a question is that?

  6. bob newland 2013.05.12

    Jes' askin'.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.05.12

    Bob, we could ask it either way. Asking your way might be instructive if we went down another path to discuss why atheists like me, who by the typical Christian's read have no reason to live, keep living with a fairly strong sense of purpose. But it also does suggest, as Jenny says, that you would encourage more people to end their lives. Do you?

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.05.12

    Jenny, I'm all for studying and promoting suicide prevention everywhere. But if we study differences in suicide rstes in different places, might that not help us better understand and tackle the conditions that push more people to suicide?

  9. Jana 2013.05.14

    And in other news, John Thune gives his friends in the cat food industry a shout out by cutting SNAP by $4,100,000,000 hurting the working poor and elderly the most.

    But don't worry...he did increase crop insurance subsidies. At least Kristi's family gravy train won't be the dog food kind, but the kind funded by tax payers at the expense of the working poor.

    But stay it turns out, JT might just be a philanthropist compared to what Kristi and the House are proposing. Ripping $21,000,000,000 from the working poor and elderly.

    Oh, but why would the elderly care anymore...I mean after sequestration already jerked Meals on Wheels from them so that other, more wealthy people, won't suffer the horrible fate of a delayed flight or billions spent on political pork stuffed military contracts...that the military doesn't even want.

    Choices John...choices.

  10. Chrissy 2014.12.13

    The college I went to decided it was okay to invade my privacy via computer and post pictures of where I lived and share my correspondence among other things. They had no remorse whatsoever. I cannot begin to describe their immaturity and lack of professionalism. Off the charts!! When I called the suicide hotline I was treated to more sarcasm and immaturity. Apparently I had been targeted on such a large scale in this crooked suicide-fostering state. South Dakota has high suicide rates because the professionals including the police, teachers, and healthcare professionals are as immature as children and band together so there is no help or support for those targeted and understandably depressed and suicidal.

  11. leslie 2014.12.13

    "quitters", "chickening-out" fosters the stigma surrounding suicide that likely increases the rate...forget about where it happens....educate from perpetuation of the stigma!!

  12. JeniW 2014.12.13

    Chrissy, what was it that you needed then? What is it that you need now?

    Educate us as to how we can help?

    I came close to suicide three times in my life. I cannot claim to know what it is was, or is, for you. I can only tell you that I know the desperation and the loneliness. Please tell us what any of us might be able to do?

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.13

    A state college did this? Which one? When? Why did they post your private information? Was it the college's suicide hotline that acted unprofessionally?

    And are you saying there's a connection between the state's crookedness and a desire to foster suicide?

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