Virginia’s suicide rate is now the highest it’s been in the last 13 years; Virginians are now three times more likely to die from suicide than they are from homicide.
And Virginia is not alone.
Over the past decade, our nation’s suicide rate has been steadily climbing, rising a staggering 23 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 700,000 emergency room visits in 2010 alone for self-inflicted injuries.
The fact is, America’s suicide rate is on the rise, and Conservative economic policies are to blame.
In a study released in May, Professors David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu of Oxford University in England found that suicide rates in both the U.S. and U.K. increase when working class wages and wealth decline.
The study calculates, for example, that there were 4,750 “excess” suicides during the recession period in the U.S., compared with suicide rates before the recession.
Stuckler and Basu conclude their report by saying that, “what we’ve learned is that the real danger to public health is not recession per se, but austerity.”
That’s right. The very same austerity policies that Republicans in Washington are constantly pushing on us are the same policies that are driving Americans to kill themselves.
And these findings are nothing new.
Australian research shows that suicides increase under Conservative governments.
Australian scientists found that suicides in that country increased markedly when a Conservative government was in power. And, they found similar results for the U.K.
The team of Australian scientists analyzed suicide statistics for the New South Wales area of Australia between 1901, when the Australian federal government was established, and 1998.
They then looked at which political parties had control in both state and federal governments in New South Wales, which have consistently been under either Labour (like the Democratic Party in the U.S.) or Conservative control.
And surprise, the scientists found that the highest rates of suicide occurred when Conservative state and federal governments were in power.
And then here’s another smoking gun: When Conservative-backed austerity policies began to ravage Greece in 2010, the suicide rate shot up by 18 percent.
In Athens alone, the suicide rate soared 25 percent.
Before austerity came to Greece, that nation had the lowest suicide rate in the entire European Union.
In other European nations hit with austerity, the results are the same.
In Italy, for example, the suicide rate has also increased thanks to devastating austerity policies.
So, if Conservative-backed austerity policies are driving suicides here in the U.S. and around the world, and we’ve known this for over a decade, what can be done to reverse this trend?
Going back to the study by Stuckler and Basu, they found that to stop the epidemic of austerity-driven suicides, we must invest more in our economy and country, not less.
They show that, during the Great Depression, each $100 per capita of “relief” spending from FDR’s New Deal ($1800 in today’s dollars) led to a decline in pneumonia deaths of 18 per 100,000 people; a reduction in infant deaths of 18 per 1,000 live births; and a drop in suicides of 4 per 100,000 people.
Stuckler also highlights the case of Iceland. In 2008, Iceland experienced arguably the largest banking crisis in history, relative to the size of a nation’s economy. Three of its major banks failed, its debt soared, the unemployment rate skyrocketed, and the nation’s currency completely collapsed.
Despite all of this, rather than take the Conservative approach that we took here in America, bailing out the banks and slashing funding to crucial government programs, Iceland decided to say no to austerity, and rejected major cuts to its social safety net programs.
As a result, there was no significant increase in suicides during Iceland’s economic collapse.
You’d think that the clear correlation between austerity and suicide rates in Europe would wake Republicans up, and encourage them to stop inflicting the same despicable and devastating policies on Americans. In their continuing service to the billionaire class, Republicans continue to slash away at social safety net programs, and continue pushing the Reaganomics policies that have devastated America’s working class.
Remember, when Republicans talk about how bad the economy is, they’re bragging.
Conservative economic policies, from austerity to sequester to Reaganomics, kill people.
Now that the science is in, and irrefutable, it’s time to wake Americans up to this deadly con game.