According to The Associated Press, nearly 50,000 people committed suicide last year, an absolute record in terms of raw numbers and the highest rate in nearly a century. Though, as one scholar noted, there’s always the chance that the numbers are up on account of better reporting, that doesn’t explain the consistent increase in these numbers over the last two decades. Something is broken in the United States, and it’s us.
Why, in the most prosperous time to be alive in human history, do so many think that they would be better off dead? Nor do these numbers about suicide tell the complete story. Along with the dramatic increase in substance-abuse-related deaths, particularly opioids, deaths related to alcohol abuse and other addictions, and the suicide-by-slaughter of mass shootings, we face an outbreak of what is being called “deaths of despair.”