May 13, 2008
YOU WANNA BE WHERE NOBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME:
The Mysteries of the Suicide Tourist: Why the same things that attract millions of happy visitors to New York—the glamour, the skyline, the anonymity—also draw people from around the world to kill themselves here. (Phil Zabriskie, May 11, 2008, New York)
In a sense, New York City is unremarkable when it comes to suicide. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 32,637 people died by suicide in the United States in 2005, the most recent year for which figures exist. It’s the third leading cause of death for Americans ages 15 to 24, the fourth leading cause for Americans 18 to 65. New York State had the country’s third-lowest per capita suicide rate in 2005 (6.2 per 100,000); only New Jersey (6.1) and Washington, D.C., (6) had lower rates. (Montana tops the list, with a rate of 22, followed by several other western states.) Between 1990 and 2004, suicide rates in cities such as Miami, Las Vegas, Sacramento, and Pittsburgh dwarfed New York’s, according to a report called “Big Cities Health Inventory 2007” from the National Association of County and City Health Officials. Of the cities included, only Boston, Baltimore, and Washington ranked lower in 2004. Within the city, Manhattan had a rate of 7.6 suicides per 100,000 people in 2005, higher than the other boroughs (Brooklyn had the fewest, at 4.64), but lower than many upstate regions.
Recently, however, researchers stumbled on a striking fact about suicides in New York: A surprising number of people who kill themselves in the city come here from out of town, and many appear to come expressly to take their own lives. In a report published last fall called “Suicide Tourism in Manhattan, New York City, 1990–2004,” researchers at the New York Academy of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medical College found that of the 7,634 people who committed suicide in New York City between 1990 and 2004, 407 of them, or 5.3 percent, were nonresidents. More strikingly, nonresidents accounted for 274, or 10.8 percent, of the 2,272 suicides in Manhattan during that time (the numbers did not include college students, who were considered residents for the purposes of the study). The researchers didn’t look at comparable data from other cities, but, says the study’s lead author, Charles Gross, “One in ten people that commit suicide in Manhattan don’t live here. That’s a big chunk.”
The New York City chief medical examiner’s office won’t release the files it allowed the NYAM researchers to review. But an informal survey of suicides in New York over the past twenty years reveals a bleak tapestry of out-of-towners who took their own lives.
It's all skyscrapers [and cars] are good for and the soul-killing atomization of the urban setting makes for an ideal venue. Posted by Orrin Judd at May 13, 2008 4:00 PM