...Indeed, more Americans are killing themselves today than during the Great Depression. Specifically, there were were 123 million Americans in 1930. The maximum suicide rate during the depths of the Great Depression was 22 out of 100,000 Americans. That means that up to 27,060 Americans killed themselves each year.
In contrast, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that 38,364 Americans committed suicide in 2010. In other words, 2010 suicides were approximately 142% of suicides during the depths of the Great Depression. (The suicide rate is lower today than during the Great Depression, but – given that there are more Americans – there are more suicides each year.)
The head of my local county’s mental health services confirmed to me today that there are now more suicides now than during the Great Depression.
The Root Causes: Unemployment and Foreclosure
Why do more people kill themselves during severe downturns? It’s not just a downturn in the business cycle in some general sense. It’s more specific than that.
Unemployment and foreclosure are the largest triggers in increased suicide risk.