Tonight, the Perpetual Notion Machine discusses a very somber subject, suicide. Deciding to end one’s own life has been with us, probably, forever. But, we want to know some of the complexity and psychology behind why this occurs, especially now, with the mental strain of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our guest Chuck Raison, a psychiatrist in human ecology at UW-Madison, talks with PNM’er Dennis Shaffer. The overall rate of suicide has been steadily increasing for the last couple of decades, hitting 14.2 suicides per 100,000 people in 2018. The steady increase ended in 2019 when the number dropped a little below 14.2. But surprisingly, in a report that came out last November, the number of suicides dropped again in 2020, the first year of the pandemic.
According to Chuck, the pandemic has clearly caused a high rise in mental strain from depression, anxiety, and loneliness, which often lead to signs of suicide like helplessness and hopelessness. But in the past, most successful suicides are committed by older white males, who appear to suffer from a more severe type of depression that makes them more determined to be successful. Many more younger people ATTEMPT suicide but are not successful. COVID-19 may have changed the scenario. For young people depression generally comes and goes, but during this pandemic, depression tends to hit harder and more swiftly, and committing suicide becomes an impulsive, and now more successful, decision. Chuck says that this needs to be studied intensely if this becomes the norm in suicides in the future. Impulsive suicides provide no signs or signals for the victim to receive the help he/she needs.
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