Suicide: Obfuscating the Numbers

How many murders are broadcast by local news stations? Just about all of them sounds precise enough. And suicides? Almost none. Same can be said for national news stations. Homicide statistics are drawn upon to justify stances on other issues such as gun control, mental health, or violence levels. Why is suicide such a taboo?

While the percentages aren’t substantial, suicides are a prevalent part of society and should be acknowledged, not written off. Sometimes there is honor in dying by choice. When Titanic’s captain went down with ship, was he not living up to society’s expectation? When a battalion leader marches his troops into certain onslaught to buy the armored division more time to complete pincer flanks, is he not heralded a hero? What defines whether a suicide is admired or admonished?

It is said in the US, the Japanese Kamikazes were insane for killing themselves to ensure destruction of their enemy. The Japanese public would argue otherwise. The impoverished peoples of several Arab countries have resorted to suicide attacks. The West scolds those individuals as insane. People sharing their suffering would again argue otherwise. The examples given above are military in nature. What about individuals acting upon their own accords?

Some journalists have argued it is unethical to report these instances of suicide due to a cascading effect. The idea being, its dissemination into public knowledge encourages others to follow suit. By that logic, in publicizing murder, journalists and news organizations approve of such behavior. There are no two ways on this subject.

The latest statistics from the CDC were released in 2011. They only indicate the total numbers of each type of tracked death for that year. 38,285 persons killed themselves within the United States that year. US population estimates on December 31, 2011 were at 312,799,495.  The arithmetic would then indicate that 1 of every 8,170 people in the United States committed suicide during 2011. I would break down the numbers by state, however the CDC withholds that level of detail from their annual report.

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