The Suicide Rate in Utah (And Elsewhere)


Hey everybody.  It has been a few weeks since I have posted anything which is a testimony to how crazy busy the Spring is for pastor’s.  What that said, yesterday I attended a wonderful and enlightening presentation on suicide.  I tried to share some thoughts about it on Facebook but the status was too long.  Therefore, I decided this might be a better venue.

Those of you who do not live here in Utah may not know that Utah has the 5th highest suicide rate in the country.  In 2015, 648 people in the state of Utah committed suicide.  That averages out to one and a half per day which means that the news is constantly reporting it and talking about it.

Along with the suicide rate, Utah also ranks high in antidepressants and plastic surgery.  These are distressing realities to face while living in what is an otherwise great state.

The speaker explained a few fascinating notes about why people struggle with depression and suicide here more than other places.

The most fascinating has to do with brain chemistry alterations that happen at elevation.  It turns out the higher the elevation, the harder it is for your brain to secrete dopamine into your system.  This means people who live at higher elevations have a harder time feeling positive.  Our bodies just can’t regulate our emotions as well as they can at lower altitudes.

Another interesting note is that the suicide rate is higher in places where the overall population is happier.  This seems to be true all over the world.  The happier the people, the more of them commit suicide.  This is because misery truly does love company.  If you are miserable in a room full of miserable people you are all there for each other and can commiserate together.  In turn, if everybody is happy and you are miserable than you have nowhere to turn, or at least feel like it.  So Utah’s suicide rate is actually an unfortunate byproduct of an otherwise extremely healthy and happy populace.

With all that said, the most important point the speaker made had to do with media coverage.  It is true that 648 suicides is 648 too many.  It is also true that it averages out to one and a half per day.  However, if you divide 648 by the 3 million people living in Utah that is 2/100s of 1 percent.  That is .02%!  When a person and a half a day are committing suicide and the statewide news is reporting every single one it is so easy to think, “Everybody here kills themselves!  Why should I continue where everybody else has failed?”  But the truth is 99.98% of Utahns don’t kill themselves and we all go through the same things together.  We all live at the same elevation (mostly), struggle to make financial ends meet, strive to maintain a healthy-happy family, deal with the same stressors at work, and are driven crazy dealing with the ridiculous Utah drivers.

And so I end by repeating something I am quite fond of saying.  I admit I stole it from Red Green, “Remember I am pulling for you.  We truly are all in this together.”