HELENA, Montana (February 11, 2016) – A study just released found that the death rate for white Americans ages 45-54 has risen consistently in the past decade in the U.S., by over 20%. Death rates for minorities in the same age range are higher, but decreasing. During the same time period, death rates for middle aged people in Britain dropped by ⅓. The number one killer? Drugs and alcohol, followed by cancer, and then suicide, for which Montana leads the nation.
The state is home to twice the national average suicide rate and it keeps climbing. Suicides in Montana were up 7.3% in 2014, with the highest risk among 45-65 year olds. Experts believe one cause is that, even with insurance, many aren’t going to the doctor because of the high co-pays and using alcohol and substances to cope with the pain.
Montana Suicide Prevention Coordinator Karl Rosston tells the Guardian there are about 150,000 in the state who don’t have access to any type of healthcare, and wages are not rising with increasing healthcare costs and the cost of living. Even those insured can’t afford the copays.
23% of people in Montana have no health insurance, according to the Butte-Silver Bow Community Health Needs Assessment. The report goes on to say that nearly 40% faced obstacles receiving health care even with insurance, and ⅓ said they could not afford a prescription. 8% said they didn’t have transportation and 11% said they reduced prescriptions or didn’t take them altogether to save.
Rosston went on to say the typical death certificate he sees is a 55 year old male who has chronic pain issues and isn’t being treated, and 30% of people who die by suicide have issues of chronic pain. Unintentional poisonings in the U.S. from drugs and alcohol have risen about 160% since 1999, and Montana has 82 painkiller prescriptions for every 100 people.
The study also states that the highest proportion of suicides are among people who don’t have a college education, meaning they are most likely in lower income jobs. Rosston says about 80% of suicides in the state were from people who didn’t have a college degree.
Death rates for white middle-aged Americans have risen to as many as those who died of AIDS in our country, yet decreased in others. Researchers found that the uneducated suffered the most, with drug overdoses and alcohol-related deaths increasing 400%, suicides rising 81% and liver disease by 50%.
Montana’s suicide rate is currently 23.7 per 100,000 making it the highest in the free world. In Butte-Silver Bow, 55.5% of adults keep a firearm in their home, where only 34.7% in the U.S. have one readily accessible. 71.4% of households with children in the state have a gun in the house (twice the national average). The Butte-Silver Bow Suicide Prevention Committee has been distributing gun locks in the community.
7.9% of high school students in Montana have attempted suicide, and 12.1% of middle school students. Suicide is the #2 cause of death for children and adults 10-24 years old. That’s not a mistype. 10 year olds.
The United States joins New Zealand as one of only two countries that allow pharmaceutical companies to advertise on television. We lead the world in gun violence. Of the 22 million people who currently need access to mental healthcare and addiction treatment, about 2 million will actually receive it. We leave you with this one question: In one of the richest countries in the world, should this be?
This election season, whoever you vote for, join us in sending the message that we want a President who is going to work to hold insurance companies accountable. An Administration that is going to expand access to mental health care. A White House, Congress and Supreme Court committed to unraveling the machine that contributes to the death and incarceration of those who need help. Someone who can save Montana.