An extraordinary thing has happened…

Thanks to the courage of severely depressed Americans, neither chance nor intention… neither the gods nor “towel head” terrorists… pose a bigger threat to them than they pose to themselves.

The New York Times has the story:

Suicide rates among middle-aged Americans have risen sharply in the past decade, prompting concern that a generation of baby boomers who have faced years of economic worry and easy access to prescription painkillers may be particularly vulnerable to self-inflicted harm.

More people now die of suicide than in car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which published the findings in Friday’s issue of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. In 2010, there were 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes and 38,364 suicides.

Suicide has typically been viewed as a problem of teenagers and the elderly, and the surge in suicide rates among middle-aged Americans is surprising.

From 1999-2010, the suicide rate among Americans ages 35-64 rose by nearly 30%, to 17.6 deaths per 100,000 people, up from 13.7. Although suicide rates are growing among both middle-aged men and women, far more men take their own lives. The suicide rate for middle-aged men was 27.3 deaths per 100,000, while for women it was 8.1 deaths per 100,000.

We’re surprised it isn’t higher. We’ve seen the way Americans live. If we had to live in their houses… with their flat-screen televisions, dumpy wives and moron children… we would have blown our brains out long ago.

A single episode of a reality show can barely be endured; by the end of it, a man with taste or judgment already has his pistol in his hand. An entire presidential election campaign is practically a death sentence.

The Real Reason for Gun Control

Probably more people succumb than we realize. Officials don’t like to report suicides. Relatives don’t appreciate it. Often, they give the deceased the benefit of the doubt, imagining that he was just stupid or reckless, rather than self-destructive.

“It’s vastly underreported,” said Julie Phillips, an associate professor of sociology at Rutgers University who has published research on rising suicide rates. “We know we’re not counting all suicides.”

That is why so many Americans are so deeply in favor of gun control. They do not fear others; they fear themselves.

Statistically, the chance that they will be a victim of someone else’s violence is slim. But they worry they will wake up one night and peer into the dark abyss of their own pathetic lives. Outlawing guns probably really does extend their lives… at least until they find the car keys.

With the numbers before us, you’d think we would at least stop wasting time and money protecting ourselves from terrorism and other bugaboos. The US “security” budget, all in, is a fabulous sum: about $1 trillion per year. It seems foolish. The return on investment is paltry.

By comparison, suicide prevention – as near as we could make out – is barely a footnote in the federal budget: only about $56 million per year. This despite the fact that the risk to the typical reader posed by himself is about 1,000 times greater than the risk from “terrorists.”

You’d think we might slack off a little on health care spending too. Americans take all manner of potions and remedies, trying to keep the wreck on the road, at a cost of about $2.7 trillion last year. But what’s the point in changing the oil in a car you’re going to drive off a cliff?

But look on the bright side. Despite conditions in the US that make death seem attractive by comparison, about 300 million have hung on.

That is the shocking and amazing thing. Despite Homeland Security, drones, Facebook, rap, neo-cons, Barack Obama, tort lawyers, the IRS, Lindsay Lohan, Paul Krugman and Thomas L. Friedman – most Americans still have a will to live.

Yes, we are all bound for heaven or for hell. But most of us will pay any price and endure any indignity to avoid going there before we have to.

Others can’t wait…


Bill Bonner