Did you know that in the past ten years, suicide has risen to be the tenth major cause of death in the USA, right behind the flu and pnuemonia? Of this, rural counties have steadily increased to a 25% higher suicide rates than urban counties since the early 1990s. There are many thoughts from suicidologists and therapists alike that suggest the reason behind the increased rates are due to the lack of understanding on the subject, even by those that do study it.
As suicide cleaners, we’re not here to add to the confusion on the subject manner, but as a part of the emergency response teams, we do hope our observations can help make sense of this data and support anyone affected.
On par with statistics released by the Suicide Prevention Center, rural counties are the most common areas we receive suicide cleanup calls from. Suicide in these areas are far reaching and deeply felt. We even noticed these communities speak of suicides casually, almost as if desensitized to it, especially from Wyoming. Wyoming appears to have the highest suicide rate in the country, and Wyoming is one of the many rural states we receive calls from. Other rural counties in Pennsylvania, Montana, West Virginia, and Maine are also frequent locations.
You might think that means southern states would be high on the list, but we receive more calls for crime scene related clean ups in southern states like North and South Carolina.
Daniel Steelesmith, a postdoctoral grad at Ohio State University, believes that the areas dealing with high suicide rates are those with rising poverty levels and issues finding work. As nationwide cleaners, we’d like to add to these findings with our observations from being in these areas and empathizing with families that have lost loved ones to suicide.
We see a big difference in the quality of life. Mass transportation is scarce in areas like rural Pennsylvania and West Virginia. We’ve heard from families this is mostly because counties are corrupt with funds being used to build the infrastructure needed for low populations in these areas.
With poor infrastructure comes more difficulty accessing:
As a result, these locations depend on farming to stay alive, but farms have faced many problems since commercial agriculture and Silicon Valley hit local farmers hard in the 1990s. Farms are a barely sustainable source of income, with 40% of small farms profiting at about $2/day.
Repeatedly we hear most struggle to make ends meet, which is on par with the fact that 16% are below the poverty line. It may not seem much more than urban areas, where 11% is below the poverty line, but it feels everywhere because of how few people there are living out there.
The odds are stacked against those living in poverty. Poverty makes it difficult to afford housing, food, and other important needs like health care and therapy. Even cell and internet service is scarce, unreliable, or unaffordable in some areas. Reliable personal transportation is also difficult to afford, meaning that commuting to fair paying jobs is also a struggle.
Most of our cleanups in these areas are for residents who are 65 and older. Interestingly enough, roughly 20% of rural America is in this age group, according to the USDA. That means just about 20% of these areas are nearing retirement, or already retired. Retirement homes provide some job opportunities to younger populations, but what about the retired residents that are living on fixed incomes or may not qualify for welfare?
Tragically, the annual veteran suicide rate is 13.5% of all suicides in the United States and in these areas, we’d say 1 in 7 of our suicide cleanup cases are veterans around this age group, or younger.
SuicideCleanUp.com is proud to fund non profit organizations like M.A.R.C.O. (Military Assistance & Relief of Cleanup Organization), established with the purpose of supporting families of veterans affected by suicide.
As far as the other issues, more accountability in the local governments is needed. For affected areas we service, like WV, we always try to inform and encourage affected families to get involved with organizations like WV Can’t Wait. Most families are unaware these organizations exist, which we believe is part of the issue.
It takes a village, but as a nationwide 24/7 emergency biohazard cleaning agency we do what we do to service and inform these communities. We’re here if you need a suicide cleanup in WY, KY, WV, MT, or elsewhere.
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