The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Suicide Is on the Rise in the U.S.

Jun 11, 2018

The Centers for Disease Control reported the rate of suicides in the U.S. increased by 25 percent since 1999. Suicides increased across age, gender, race and ethnic groups. Recent suicides by prominent people like Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade illustrate that this problem also cuts across class.

Suicide experts point to a number of possible immediate causes for the increasing suicide rates: strained relationships, stress with work or finances; substance abuse and health conditions.

They say the foreclosure crisis contributed to the increasing rates, particularly among white males. The opioid crisis has led to an increase in drug abuse that is also partly to blame.

Mental illness plays a role. Other studies have shown a high proportion of those who kill themselves had underlying mental conditions, like depression, yet the latest report suggests it may often be missed. In states that document suicides most carefully, 54 per cent of suicides involved people not diagnosed with mental illness.

What’s clear is suicide is on the increase in this country. It’s a social problem, and the various immediate causes the experts point to have their roots in capitalist society. The connection can be direct, as when someone takes a hit financially. War is a constant presence under capitalism, particularly here in the seat of U.S. imperialism, and it leaves its effect on veterans. The report found suicide disproportionately high among veterans, who made up 18 per cent of suicides but make up only 8.5 per cent of the U.S. population. More Vietnam vets committed suicide than soldiers who died in the war itself.

It can also be more indirect, from people feeling isolated and alienated from others. Seeking help for mental illness can carry a stigma that causes people to worry about their jobs or relationships. This is especially true in rural areas, where someone may not want their car to be seen parked in front of the only mental health facility in town.

Capitalism encourages individualism and despair, which is made worse in the absence of any social movement that might provide more people with a sense of hope for the future. We’re likely to see similar increases, until working people make a real fight to put society on a different footing.