Longtime readers know that Microkhan has a curious obsession with suicide. (We blame Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Rhoads.) So we couldn’t help but notice the fact that Montana has by far the highest suicide rate in the U.S., at 22 cases per 100,000 residents. That leaves even Nevada and its legions of busted, coked-out gamblers in the dust.
Yet here’s the rub: While Montanans appear to be killing themselves at an alarming rate, they’re quite reluctant to turn their pain or fury outward. The state has the nation’s second lowest homicide rate, behind only New Hampshire. What gives?
The standard explanation is that residents of Montana’s rural areas are ashamed of depression, and so don’t seek treatment until it’s too late. On top of that, rural dwellers are often more prone to suicide than their urban counterparts, though the reasons for this are not entirely clear. (Poverty is often said to play a role, but that’s probably less of an issue in Montana than in the hinterlands of, say, China or Bangladesh.)
Gun ownership has to be a factor, since it’s far easier to kill one’s self with a firearm rather than pills, carbon monoxide, or the noose. Montana has the third highest rate of gun ownership in the U.S., behind only Wyoming and Alaska (two other states with disturbingly high rates of suicide).
But Microkhan thinks the overlooked factor here is proximity to emergency medical care. Keep in mind that for every suicide in the U.S., there are nearly 19 unsuccessful attempts. What keeps the failure rate so high—and has slowly decreased the American suicide rate over the past 60 years—is more effective ER treatment. But that requires getting to the hospital quickly, and that’s just not possible in more rural areas.
Unfortunately, there’s doesn’t seem to be a quick fix to this problem, seeing as how there probably isn’t much cash available to build new ERs around Wolf Point. Perhaps the state government should just distribute Mormon literature and Prozac.