Race and Class Differences Affect Suicide Risks

Jun 2013

According to a recent survey of 2,345 U.S. adults conducted online in April 2013, only around 33 percent of Americans reported that they were very happy. The Huffington Post reports that this indicates a decline in happiness that has continued over the last two years.  The survey also revealed something even more disturbing than the fact that most Americans aren’t that happy: it revealed that happiness varies by race.

Our Dallas suicide lawyers know that there are a lot of risk factors that can contribute to making someone more likely to die by suicide. Recent evidence suggests that race and class may be among those factors, especially as income inequality grows in the United States and as we struggle with ongoing economic challenges and an increasingly low-wage job market.

Minority Status Can Affect Suicide Risk

The Huffington Post indicated that African-Americans and whites are at roughly the same levels of happiness, although reports of satisfaction have declined among African-Americans in recent years. Around 34 percent of whites indicated that they were happy, while an estimated 36 percent of American-Americans said that they are happy (down from 44 percent in 2011).

Hispanics, however, had the lowest rates of people reporting that they were very happy. Only 28 percent of Hispanic – fewer than three out of every 10- said that they were very happy. This is both a significant decline from 2011 when 35 percent said they were happy and a significantly lower percentage than among either African Americans or Caucasians.

Although researchers were cautious to indicate that a clear cause of unhappiness cannot be determined from the research, factors such as college degree status and work situation may be affecting the happiness of respondents and especially of Hispanics.

Unfortunately, when people are less happy, they are more likely to suffer from depression and are more likely to have suicidal tendencies. Of course, merely not being happy is not generally enough to lead someone to attempt suicide. However, race and class differences likely do have an impact on suicidal tendencies. In fact, in one area in the Hamptons, a local high school is seeing the consequences of changing racial demographics as three students out of 900 committed suicide, all of whom were Hispanic.

According to the New York Times, East Hampton High faced an “uncomfortable ethnic integration problem,” that had been festering in the background for a long time. East Hampton is traditionally a very wealthy area, but in recent years there have been many poorer Hispanic residents and children who moved to East Hampton years after their parents had arrived and who were struggling to readjust to their parents, learn a new language, and enter a new school that is “rarefied even by the standards of the average American student.”

Three of the students who entered into this environment committed suicide in just three years, which is far above the regional average. One, a 16-year-old junior from Ecuador, hung himself just days after homecoming. The suicide was the second in three years and was followed by another suicide death two months later. The suicides were described as bringing to the surface concerns about the racial and economic divisions among students.

While this school is a microcosm, situations like this may arise more and more throughout the United States, especially as demographics shift and especially if divisions in happiness levels continue to grow. Understanding the impact of race and class on suicide rates may thus become a very important issue in upcoming years.

If you lost a loved one to suicide, contact the Dallas Law Offices of Skip Simpson, dedicated to holding mental health counselors accountable. Call 214-618-8222.

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