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Noem Policy Agenda Reflects Lack of Seriousness About Preventing Suicide

I just heard SDPB’s Lori Walsh remark on air that when three state officials show up to her studio to talk about preventing suicide, we know the state is taking the problem seriously.

Well, if Governor Kristi Noem is serious about preventing suicide, she’ll invite lawmakers and the public to a discussion of the well-established connection between suicide and guns. Back in January we discussed the Boston University School of Public Health finding that a state’s rate of gun ownership predicts 55% of the difference in its suicide rate from other states’. Now Ohio State University researchers find a higher density of gun shops, as well as lack of health insurance and large populations of veterans are associated with higher suicide rates:

“Findings suggest that increasing social connectedness, civic opportunities, health insurance coverage, and limiting access to lethal means within communities have the potential to reduce suicide rates across the rural-urban continuum,” the study says. “Suicide rates in rural counties are especially susceptible to deprivation, suggesting that rural counties present special challenges and deserve targeted suicide prevention efforts.”

…Along with reducing access to lethal means among people at risk, Fontanella said, communities may benefit from enhancing coping and problem-solving skills and strengthening economic development, education and training, incentivizing mental health clinicians to work in underserved areas and using web-based telemedicine.

“Rural areas might also benefit from suicide prevention strategies that support social connection through community organizations and community engagement activities,” she said [Joanne Viviano, “Suicide Risk Linked to Guns, Veterans,” Gatehouse Media via The Ledger (Florida), updated 2019.09.09].

Kristi Noem on the campaign trail at Kones Korner, posing happily amidst one of the major factors in suicide, from Noem campaign Facebook, 2018.02.19.
Kristi Noem on the campaign trail at Kones Korner, posing happily amidst one of the major factors in suicide, from Noem campaign Facebook, 2018.02.19.

Reduce access to guns, expand access to affordable health insurance… hmmm those don’t sound like typical Kristi Noem policies. If she’s serious about stopping suicide, Governor Noem may have to rethink some major parts of her agenda.


  1. mike from iowa 2019-09-10

    I’d be willing to chip in a nickel to buy Noem and assorted wingnuts a box of clews. Not that that would help them any.

    Noem’s inactivity and apparent lack of knowledge on hemp might exacerbate the rural suicide problem.

  2. mike from iowa 2019-09-10

    Really it isn’t fair to call wingnuts heartless just because saving lives doesn’t appear to be a priority of theirs, imho.

  3. Debbo 2019-09-10

    From 538’s “Significant Digits newsletter:

    “Amid this summer’s string of mass shootings, six in 10 Americans fear a similar tragedy could happen in their communities. The poll from ABC News and The Washington Post found that the overwhelming majority of respondents also favor some gun restrictions. Eighty-nine percent support background checks for all gun purchases, and 86 percent support “red flag” laws that permit taking guns away if a judge says an individual is dangerous. [ABC News]”

    While this paragraph is particular to domestic terrorism, the polling applies equally to suicide.

    I agree with your last comment Mike. NRA blood $ is more valuable to the GOP than human lives. 🤬🤬🤬

  4. Debbo 2019-09-10

    This will further unhinge the white Male supremacists who are the biggest domestic terrorists:

    “For the first time, most new hires of prime working age (25 to 54) are people of color, according to a Washington Post analysis of data the Labor Department began collecting in the 1970s.”

    Why it’s happening: “Women are predominantly driving this trend.”

    “Minority women … have begun to reshape the demographics of the U.S. workforce, especially because many white baby boomers have been retiring.”

    The key stat: “There are 5.2 million more people in the United States with jobs than at the end of 2016, and 4.5 million of them are minorities.”

  5. Certain Inflatable Recreational Devices 2019-09-10

    In god we trust.

  6. Certain Inflatable Recreational Devices 2019-09-10

    Or is it “gawd.”

  7. Debbo 2019-09-10

    From the post, these are the things rural areas ought to do:

    ✔reducing access to lethal means
    ✔enhancing coping and problem-solving skills
    ✔strengthening economic development, education and training,
    ✔incentivizing mental health clinicians to work in underserved areas
    ✔using web-based telemedicine
    ✔suicide prevention strategies that support social connection through community organizations and community engagement activities

    Are NoMa’am and the SDGOP seriously, actively doing these? Any of these? Even one of these?

    I don’t mean lip service, resolutions, study committees or any of that crap. I mean are NoMa’am and the SDGOP putting their boots on the ground to make any of those things happen to save the very lives of South Dakotans? Do they care even a little bit, or does that pledge to the SDGOP supersede SD lives?

  8. Debbo 2019-09-11

    The Strib has 3 Opinion Page pieces about suicide today and this is why:

    “Now a new report from the Senate’s Joint Economic Committee charts the scale of this increase — a doubling from 22.7 deaths of despair per 100,000 Americans in 2000 to 45.8 per 100,000 in 2017, easily eclipsing all prior 20th-century highs.”

    “Washington Free Beacon’s Charles Fain Lehman that we should subdivide the ‘despair’ problem into distinct categories: A drug crisis driven by the spread of heroin and fentanyl that requires a drug policy solution; a surge in suicides and depression and heavy drinking among middle-aged working-class whites to which economic policy might offer answers; and an increase in depression and suicide generally, and among young people especially, that has more mysterious causes (social media? secularization?) and might only yield to a psychological and spiritual response.”
    Ross Douthat New York Times

  9. Debbo 2019-09-11

    Another piece on suicide in the Strib:

    “While only 6% of suicide attempts use guns, they’re the means of 54% of completed suicides, according to the American Journal of Public Health.”

    To understand how addressing gun violence will also affect suicide rates, some widely held myths must be dispelled.

    “Myth 1: Most suicides are planned in advance.
    Fact: Most suicide attempts are impulsive, which makes it even more important to limit access to the means to suicide. In 24% of near-fatal suicide attempts, for example, the attempt came within five minutes of the decision to do so, and in 70%, within an hour. (New England Journal of Medicine.)”

    “Myth 2: People who attempt suicide and are foiled will find another means.
    Fact: Ninety percent of suicide attempt survivors do not subsequently die of suicide. However, the choice of suicide method matters — because of its lethality, 85% of suicide attempts with a gun do not allow a second chance at life; 95% of people using other means do get a second chance.
    Mental Health America”

    “Myth 3: Gun violence victims are usually from homicides.
    Fact: Nationally, gun suicides outnumber gun homicides 2 to 1. In Minnesota, it’s 3 to 1, with middle-aged, white, rural men the largest share of suicide victims.”

    “Myth 4: Preventing gun suicide is a partisan issue.
    Fact: No one wants to see people forfeit their lives because a gun is handy. Statistics show that gun owners are at higher risk of suicide — not because of higher incidence of mental-health issues, but because of the proximity of a gun. (Harvard School of Public Health.)”

    “The two pioneer red-flag states — Connecticut (1999) and Indiana (2005) — have seen approximately a 10% reduction in suicides. That’s a lot of lives saved.”
    By Rich Cowles

  10. Debbo 2019-09-11

    The 3rd article is about legalizing assisted suicide in Minnesota similar to Oregon.

    The two articles I have quoted certainly make clear that NoMa’am and the rest of the SDGOP needs to be focused on and carrying out concrete, proven plans to decrease deaths by suicide in SD. That definitely includes passing red flag laws. It’s the decent, humane thing to do.

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