Why us?

On Nov. 2, the Reno Gazette Journal reprinted a USA Today editorial calling on more spending on suicide prevention, a follow-up to the newspaper’s series on the problem. “If a killer roaming America left 47,000 men, women and children dead each year, you can bet society would be demanding something be done to end the scourge,” the editorial read in part. “Well, such a killer exists. It’s called suicide, and the rate of it has steadily risen. Yet the national response has been little more than a shrug.”

What’s remarkable is what is happening elsewhere—suicide is in decline. The same week that the editorial appeared, the Economist was on the newsstands with a cover illustrating the drop in suicides. The magazine editorialized:

“Among most Western countries, [suicide] rates have been falling for decades. In Britain, for instance, the rate peaked in 1934, during the Depression. But elsewhere, the decline has happened more recently. China’s rate started to come down in the 1990s; in Russia, Japan, South Korea and India rates have all fallen significantly in the past decade. Western Europe’s rate is still declining slowly. America is the big exception: its rate has risen by 18 percent this century. Twenty years ago, America’s rate was half China’s. Now it is twice China’s. But the net gain is still huge. The drop in the global rate has saved 2.8m lives since 2000. Three times as many as have been killed in battle in that period.”