September 22nd, 2021
Research on Suicide in Wyoming: A Gun-Free Zone

UD’s been compiling, during this Suicide Prevention Month, the many forms of writing out of Wyoming about that state’s appalling suicide rate that never mention guns.

Though firearms are the third-most common method for attempting suicide, they are responsible for the largest share of suicide deaths because they are so lethal. Nationally, nearly two-thirds of all deaths by firearm are due to suicide, and Wyoming has had the highest rate of suicide by firearm of any state over the last 15 years. Studies have linked higher rates of gun ownership with increased risk of suicide death, but in Wyoming, which also has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the country, this is an unpopular topic. As Tom Morton of the Casper Star-Tribune put it in a series of articles about Wyoming’s suicide epidemic, guns and suicide are the “third rail of Wyoming culture.”

So for instance a University of Wyoming news page yesterday touted the work on Wyoming suicides of one of their psychology professors. Let’s take a look.

‘[Carolyn] Pepper’s research team at UW’s Stress and Mood Lab is using nationally collected health data to understand what factors are specific to the Mountain West’s suicide rate. The stoic, individualistic Western mindset is one possible explanation… The Stress and Mood Lab initially studied demographic factors such as age, race, urbanization level and gender. Although all of these were elevated factors in the Mountain West, they did not explain why suicide rates are so high. The research team is now shifting focus to the cultural factors of living in a state with a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality.’

Hm yes that bootstraps thing… You see it in ‘Deer Hunter’ states like Pennsylvania too, but they have strikingly fewer guns and less suicide than Wyoming…

“I kept thinking someday I should study suicide, but I was sure that someone was already doing this research,” Pepper says. “I waited and waited, but no psychologist was looking at suicide in Wyoming.”’

She was sure cuz… you know… when they’re dropping like flies in your state… when some counties in your state – like Platte – are just stupendously suicidal… you figure the best social scientists around are hard at work on it. But that third rail! Why bother? Just keep ignoring the Uberti in the room and you won’t piss off anyone.


Let’s pile on. When you add to all of this Wyoming’s insanely low covid vaccination rate, with the sort of death rate that goes along with that, you have to conclude that the whole state’s got a death wish.

August 3rd, 2021
If you ever doubted the contagion theory of suicide…

take note of the awful drumbeat coming from the January 6 police.


Police have among the highest suicide rates in the country. They’ve got guns and know how to use them; they witness and take part in traumatizing events all the time; they may medicate stress and despair and anger with alcohol, which may get out of control; and they have a strong “buddy” ethos (this last one goes to the contagion effect).

August 1st, 2021
“[A] severely distressed person with decent upper body strength can clear the chest-high railings with ease.”

After four suicides of young people in a short period of time, it’s an empty Vessel.

Four and no more, at least for the moment; they’ve closed down the shiny new suicide-attractor, the folly that is in fact a folly.

For most people, it’s a fun place to crawl along stairways with a spectacular New York City view; for a few, it’s a beacon of hopelessness. And given the ways of contagion, the site was wired for more and more Werthers.


Now, gazing at its Eschery silence, people think not of the inventive fun, the silly sightseeing, its creator had in mind, but of the absolute opposite of silliness. The Vessel’s manic sprite summons the depressive specter. It is Lear’s Fool, madcap and bitterly melancholy.


Yes, New York City is all ledges to tumble or jump from; no, adding inches to chest-high railings won’t stop suicides (ten years ago, Yale undergraduate Cameron Dabaghi “got a running start and scrambled over a ten-foot-high spiked fence before leaping off” the Empire State Building). But the symbolic power of certain structures (Golden Gate Bridge, NYU’s Bobst Library, Cornell’s bridges, the Vessel) happens, and once it happens it’s all about backtracking, retrofitting, barring, netting, even sometimes closing. Four and done.

July 20th, 2021
Fort Lincoln, the Bronx

Foreign medical residents are killing themselves at an alarming rate at New York’s Lincoln Medical Center, and although only a couple of news outlets have taken note so far, one more death (which would make it four in a short period of time) is probably all it would take for everyone to start sitting up.

This blog has always had lots to say about suicide, a complex and surprisingly common act, and here’s something else to say. When you load people’s lives up with intolerable amounts of shit, some will slog through until it ends, some will find another situation, and some will commit suicide. A doctor comments on conditions at another hospital, Sinai:

I’m a physician. I have a career ahead of me, which I’m too scared to speak out against. I came home again to another suicide. Another doctor dead from Mt. Sinai in NY. I think NY is a horrible place to work. Conditions are deplorable for doctors and you should investigate. Both suicides were horrible — jumped from our high rise. I’m convinced it’s the exhaustion, the demands to perform at 100% 24/7 to meet ridiculous administrative and financial demands.

Add to this the visa hell FMRs endure – their superiors control their visas, and can cancel them if the FMR pisses them off – and you have a serious problem. Plus there’s the particular ethos at Lincoln:

We just had orientation and our program director told us two residents died by suicide. Cold and callous, he told us we’d better reach out if need help. Next day I find out a third resident died. I’m very, very afraid. I’ve sacrificed a lot to come here. I was so excited to be here. Now I’ve never been more depressed in my life. His response to the suicides is chilling. Suicide victims are blamed. He took us into the wellness room and said, ‘Let me be clear we are not here to entertain you; we are here to train you.’ Soldier-like. Very traumatic.


As A. Alvarez writes, suicide is “a terrible but utterly natural reaction to the strained, narrow, unnatural necessities we sometimes create for ourselves.” Or the necessities others create for us. It’s not Lincoln’s fault that covid hit just when these residents arrived; it’s not its fault that the hospital sits in one of the most violent, traumatized communities in the country. But once it grasped these conditions, and once it grasped the particular vulnerabilities of just-arrived residents, Lincoln should have done more to give its new residents a break.

April 25th, 2021
Cuz our Buckaroos are Always Clamorin’ to Off Themselves!

Big Sky Country’s proud of its Number One in America suicide ranking, and no federal gun control is getting in the way of that.

Ain’t got no shrinks out here, either!

Nothing stands in the way of our over-65s who’ve had enough booze and loneliness shooting themselves in the head.


January 14th, 2021
If you build it, they will come.

Whether NYU’s Bobst Library, or Hudson Yards’ Vessel (or, across the country, the Golden Gate Bridge), certain locations gradually become iconic for the suicidal. “When you build high,” said one architect, “folks will jump.”

Yes, Manhattan is wall to wall high-rises with jumpable balconies; but these are largely private suicides; we are talking about people who choose suicides maximally traumatic for large numbers of onlookers.

In the wake of its third suicide, Vessel has temporarily shut down; it will consider installing barriers.

January 7th, 2021
Stella Tennant: A Suicide.

No one blames her family for taking weeks to announce it; when it happens (as UD knows from her own family), you just want to be alone with it, want to protect the privacy of a beloved, vulnerable, tormented soul.

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