USA Today has run a fascinating and eye opening article on the state by state depression rates throughout the country.
First, here’s the basics (sorry, tried to get this as an infographic but having trouble getting the link to load):
The bluer the state, the higher the rate of depression. Leading the pack, sadly, is Utah, which has 3,977.6 cases of depression for every 100,000 people. At the bottom is New Jersey, with 2,353.3 cases. My state, Pennsylvania, is in the lower half of the country, with depression rates of 2,881.8.
The USA Today article largely focuses on the very high rates of depression in the Mountain West region of the country, which, as you can see, are very high. The article discusses the damning role of stigma, lack of access to health care, the rural natural of many of these states and high levels of gun ownership, which, unfortunately, often lead to suicide.
The article blames much of the rise of depression in this region on its self-reliant culture, particularly in terms of how it affects men. That’s one of the reasons why articles like this are so important: They can hep shatter the stigma which surrounds depression, and particularly by using personal stories of men who have suffered and sought help.
To Utah’s credit, they have done a variety of things to address their rising rates of depression and heavy rates of suicide. This includes:
- Development of a smartphone app which can provide counseling.
- Requiring students to take classes on life skills, mental health and substance abuse.
- Creation of a suicide prevention research coordinator.
The App is widely known within mental health circles and has saved lives. The requirement that student take courses in life skills is interesting, particularly if it teaches things like resilience and coping skills. I know – it seems difficult to imagine that classes are now needed in this area – but the world has changed. It has evolved. And these classes are now, apparently, painfully, necessary.
This article makes a broader point: Depression, suicide and mental illness are rising. We, in the public policy arena, must address these changes for our society to have any hope of evolving and surviving. The world seems to have become a darker place. We have to be the ones who give it light.