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U.S. Surgeon General Concerned About U.S. Suicides


My comments are inserted between the lines of the article. --Walter

At 09:04 99 07 29 +1000, Mike wrote:
"Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in the United States, claiming about 30,000 lives in 1997, compared with fewer than 19,000 homicides."

Suicide Prevention Effort Launched
By LAURA MECKLER
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The surgeon general today declared suicide a serious public health threat for the first time, launching an effort to educate school counselors, parents and even hairdressers on how to spot signs of trouble.

Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in the United States, claiming about 30,000 lives in 1997, compared with fewer than 19,000 homicides.

"This a national tragedy and a public health problem demanding national leadership,'' said Tipper Gore, the vice president's wife, an advocate for mental health issues.

"Let's talk about the reality of suicide in our national life,'' she said.  "Let's encourage all Americans to get the help they need.''

She joined Surgeon General David Satcher in releasing a "call to action.''

"We must act now,'' Satcher said in his report.  

What would the chances be that suicide would be called a threat to the health of "Americans" if the proportions of the sexes were reversed?

As it is, in 1980 there were 20,489 male victims opposed to 6,363 female victims.  The numbers in 1996 were 24,980 male victims and 5,899 female victims.

The number of annual male victims increased by 4,491 over the time frame, that of the annual female victims decreased by 464 over the same interval.  It seems that whatever is being done to decrease the risk of suicide for women is working extremely well, in spite of the large increases in the number of women in poverty due to the escalating divorce rate.  However, what works well for women appears to have the opposite effect on men at ten times the numbers.

As to the 19,000 annual victims of homicide, the vast majority of those too are male.

Murders in the US in 1995

   


Victims

Percent 
of total 

Total Murders   21,597 100 
   Men   16,630 77 
   Women   3,752 17.4 
   Children (Source: CPS)   1,215 5.6 
       
Men murdered by girlfriends/wives   3% of 16,630 499 2.31
Women murdered by boyfriends/husbands   26% of 3,752 976 4.52

Source: FBI Uniform Crime Report for 1995
Discussion of data

 

Murders in the US in 1996

   
Victims
Percent 
of total 
Total Murders   19,645 100 
   Men   15,848 80.7 
   Women   2,711 13.8 
   Children 
(Child Fatality Fact Sheet)
  1,077 5.5 
       
Men murdered by girlfriends/wives   3% of 15,848 475 2.4 
Women murdered by boyfriends/husband   30% of 2,711 813 4.1 

Source: FBI Uniform Crime Report for 1996
Discussion of data

Note: The numbers in the murder statistics don't cover murder victims 12 years of age or younger.  But there too it is primarily boys who are being murdered (and murdered four times more often by women than by men).   See also The troubles with DV murder statistics

The AP article continues:

Beyond actual suicides, there are many more failed attempts:

About a half-million Americans are treated in an emergency room each year after trying to kill themselves.

White men age 65 and older are the most likely to commit suicide, accounting for 20 percent of the cases. And the suicide rate has doubled since 1980 among children ages 10 to 14.

To quote suicide rates vastly understates the problem.

In real numbers, in 1996, suicide victims:  

AgeMaleFemale
0 - 6420,0874,937
65+4,893962

It must also be considered that the larger number of male suicide victims in the 65-and-over age group came from a proportion of men that is vastly smaller than the corresponding age group of women.  So it is that men are far more likely to kill themselves than the 20 percent figure indicates.

Relative suicide rates for men (per 100,000 men) compared to women's (per 100,000 women) in 1996:

Age Male suicides for every female suicide
65 - 745.7
75 - 848.8
85+13.7

The AP article continues:

This the first time a surgeon general has taken up suicide — or even mental health — as an issue. A full and comprehensive report on all facets of mental health is expected by the end of the year, and a comprehensive national suicide strategy is expected in early 2000.  

It is very noble that a surgeon general has taken on thissue.  The question is:

Will he give recognition to the fact that it is an issue that affects men vastly more than women and increasingly so as time goes on if nothing is done about it?

The AP article continues:

Today's report grew out of a conference on suicide prevention in Reno, Nev., last October. Experts compiled 81 recommendations, some of which needed further refinement.

But there were 15 ideas that were broadly accepted, so Satcher opted to begin work on those now.

"Our feeling was, this too important to wait for the full-blown, comprehensive strategy,'' said Damon Thompson, Satcher's spokesman. "It's simple, it's understandable, and there's near universal agreement that these 15 steps can prevent suicide.''

Many of the recommendations involve educating the public to recognize when someone seems at risk of suicide and how to get that person help. That includes doctors and nurses, but also clergy and others who interact with people and hear about their problems.

"We want coaches, we want school teachers, we want hairdressers, we want people who interact with the community,'' Thompson said. "It's going to take outreach, it's going to take training. It's going to take communities to realize it's got to be a priority.''

Satcher also announced a new outreach campaign to many of these groups to raise awareness of the issue, develop strategies to identify people at risk and improve quality of treatment.

More specifically, the Clinton administration planned to help distribute a PBS video called "Depression: On the Edge'' to school counselors to help them detect teen depression. Mrs. Gore and Satcher are also working with the Ad Council and MTV to develop a campaign reducing the stigma of mental illness. That isn't expected until late this year or early next.

Teen depression, too, is an issue that affects males far more than females, as reflected in the enormously higher suicide rates for boys at all ages starting at age 5.

The AP article continues:

And the Department of Health and Human Services plans to work with organizations like Meals on Wheels to identify people who may be at risk.

Other recommendations include:

  • Educating the public that suicide is preventable and working to diminish stigma of mental illness, substance abuse and suicide.

  • Helping primary care doctors and nurses learn how to recognize and treat depression, substance abuse and other mental problems associated with suicide and increasing referrals to specialists when appropriate.

Part of that process of education should be that it is especially important to detect depression in men and boys, as they are the ones who are most likely, by far, to commit suicide.

  • Working with news and entertainment media to present balanced portrayals of suicide.  

"Balanced portrayals of suicide" sound ominous.  Would that mean balanced in respect to the sexes?  That would be precisely what isn't required.  What is required is an effort that is equitable in relation to relative suicide rates.

The AP article continues:

Increasing research on suicide risk and prevention programs. Formally evaluating suicide prevention programs to determine what works.

---End of Article---

The efforts should focus on the various age groups in proportion to the relative risks of the sexes in each age group.  That would mean that, depending on age group, any funding allocations and other efforts would have to be between three to twelve times higher for males than for females.  If anyone truly cares, that's what will be done.  What would help too would be to provide funding for men's help lines and battered men's shelters.  There is none for those. [Note]

If nothing else, simple economics should dictate allocation of funding according to where the highest number of productive life-years are lost.  That is most definitely with males, especially when one considers that men are still the work horses of the nation.  We wouldn't want women to have to take up all the high risk jobs, would we?  That's what had to be done in Europe when tens of millions of men lost their lives in two devastating world wars.  As a result of that, women had to leave the comforts of home and jump into the breach to take up the job positions vacated by the men who left life and limb for their countries and families.

Ultimately, that is the problem that needs to be addressed as the numbers of suicides approach loss of life for men at rates that are close to those experienced by some of the European nations earlier in this century.  However, as long as it is men who lose their lives, this will most likely not be a high-priority issue.  Consider that it took almost a year for the report of the Reno conference to be acknowledged by the press.  Does anyone truly think that if the sexes in the statistics would be reversed that we would have only now heard about it?  If it would have been women who comprise the vast majority of suicide victims, we would have heard nothing but coverage of that fact for the last century.

The suicide statistics quoted by me are derived from information published by the US Bureau of the Census and by the US National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.  The details on these suicide statistics are accessible via the URLs in my sign-off.

Sincerely,

Walter H. Schneider
Box 62, Bruderheim, Alberta, Canada, T0B 0S0
Tel: (780) 796-2306
Web Site:

Are you part of the problem?
Men's Suicides -- Rates by Age Groups and Relative Rates:
http://fathersforlife.org/ussuir.htm

Full story: http://fathersforlife.org/ussuic.htm

Canadian Suicide Rates: http://fathersforlife.org/cansuic.htm

**Once a Parent -- A Parent for Life**

___________________
Note: If you are looking for a battered men's shelter, what is available to men is described in in a photo essay at The Shattered Men website.  A telling comparison is being made between typical women's shelters and typical men's shelters to identify the differences between the services available for male and female abuse victims.

See also:

Feminism For Male College Students A Short Guide to the Truth, by Angry Harry (Off-Site)

_______________
Posted 1999 07 30
2001 02 11 (format changes)
2001 09 04 (added reference to differences between men's and women's shelters)
2001 12 14 (added link to The troubles with DV murder statistics)
2006 03 04 (added link to Feminism for Male College Students)