Here’s a fact about America I just learned, and I’m guessing you don’t know. There is a clear, north-south stripe across America that is, with good reason, known as The Suicide Belt.
Trace this line on your mental map of the USA — Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico. All of these states have age-adjusted suicide rates half-again or higher than the national average of just under 13 suicides per 100,000 people.
Of course, the question is why? And the truth is, the best answer is, there are many possible reasons. All of the suicide states have lots of rural poverty, lots of wide open spaces over which relatively few people are spread – social isolation, compounded by an even thinner spread of medical care, especially mental health services.
Then there’s the frontier mentality of self-reliance, no whining…which translates into, no getting help before suicide seems like the best option.
3 other elements that probably figure into the picture, 3 things which the I-25 corridor has in abundance: guns, drugs, and altitude. There’s plenty of data suggesting that mere presence of each, increases the risk for suicide.
Suicide, along with diseases connected to drug and alcohol abuse were cited as likely causes for a stunning rise in premature deaths of middle-aged White men and women across America.
To its great credit, the Washington Post has been mining the data first filed by 2 economists from Princeton, Nobel Prize-winner Angus Deaton, and his wife Anne Case in a series of stories from around the country, showing the human realities behind the demographic tragedy revealed by the academic research.
Our guest today, Washington Post reporter Amy Ellis Nutt, came HERE, to the American southwest, to the area of Durango, Colorado, just north of the NM state line, because Durango had become a crossroads for two kinds of heightened risk for suicide by White women aged 40-54, geographic and demographic.
Amy Ellis Nutt is a reporter for the Washington Post. She won a Pulitzer Prize for her reporting for the Newark Star-Ledger. Her reporting on suicides among middle-aged White women in La Plata County, Colorado is part of a multi-part series of reports in the Post on the sharply rising death rates among White Americans, particularly those with high school educations or less, living in rural areas.