A harrowing story of suicide among white males in the western U.S. An enormous boxing upset reminds some of Tyson-Douglas. And a scary moment at a Kamala Harris talk makes me very nervous

Not to bring you down on a Monday, but all across the American West, middle-aged white men are killing themselves at an alarming rate.

There are so many problems in America today, it’s very easy to lose sight of a trend like this.

I just read a fantastic, deeply-reported story in Rolling Stone from the gifted writer Stephen Rodrick, and this paragraph stopped me cold:

“The Centers for Disease Control recorded 47,173 suicides in 2017, and there were an estimated 1.4 million total attempts. Many of society’s plagues strike heavier at women and minorities, but suicide in America is dominated by white men, who account for 70 percent of all cases. Middle-aged men walk the point. Men in the United States average 22 suicides per 100,000 people, with those ages 45 to 64 representing the fastest-growing group, up from 20.8 per 100,000 in 1999 to 30.1 in 2017. The states with the highest rates are Montana, with 28.9 per 100,000 people; Alaska, at 27 per 100,000; and Wyoming, at 26.9 per 100,000 — all roughly double the national rate. New Mexico, Idaho and Utah round out the top six states. All but Alaska fall in the Mountain time zone.”

That’s incredible, that the rates are SO much higher in the West.

Some of the reasons for the suicide epidemic you might guess: Loneliness is a major cause of suicide, and many of these states just don’t have that many people. The “rugged man” ethos is so powerful out West, men are afraid to admit weakness, or that they need help.

But there are a lot of other reasons, too, which I won’t give away, but which Rodrick, a sufferer from depression himself, explores with a deft, heartfelt touch.

Another excerpt:

“No segment of the population is more likely to be impacted by these horrifying numbers than middle-aged men in rural America. They not only own guns and lack mental-health resources — by one estimate, there are 80 or so psychiatrists licensed to practice in Wyoming — but they also have chosen a life that values independence above all else.

“It becomes a deterministic thing,” says Pearson. “You are the type of man who has chosen to isolate himself from town, health care and other people. Then you shoot yourself, and you’re hours from a trauma center.”

This is an important story, so well-told. I highly recommend reading it.

**Next up today, this video clip above was disturbing on a few levels. So Kamala Harris was in California over the weekend, along with several other candidates for the Democratic Presidential nomination, and she was in the middle of a panel discussion at a forum sponsored by MoveOn.org, a liberal advocacy group (Full disclosure: Harris is one of three Democrats I’m supporting so far in the primaries, with Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren).

So Harris is up there, answering a question, and out of nowhere a man walks up on stage and snatches the microphone out of her hands. A few seconds go by, and one of the women on stage starts to step to the man, clearly a protester. A few more seconds go by… and them more seconds go by… and finally a few men put their hands on the interloper and try to lead him off the stage.

But man, it took a loooonnnnggg time for anyone to deal with him. He could’ve had a gun, a knife, anything. There was a serious lack of security at this event, and considering you’re dealing with someone who could be the next President (and oh by the way, who is African-American), it was pretty frightening.

Let’s hope this was a wake-up call to all others hosting Presidential candidates: Shit can get real very fast. This was really, really slow response.

**And finally today, it’s been an eternity since I paid attention to anything boxing-related, maybe as far back as the first Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. But my social media feeds were ablaze Saturday night with what’s being called one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.

Andy Ruiz Jr., a flabby-looking heavyweight with a mediocre previous career record, and signed to fight for the title only a month ago as an injury replacement, stunned heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua at Madison Square Garden. Ruiz knocked the undefeated Joshua down four times, and the referee finally stopped the fight in the seventh round.

Some people are calling this the second coming of Buster Douglas stunning Mike Tyson back in 1990, but I dunno, Tyson was so world-famous, and so dominant for so long, that his aura and mystique was way greater than that of Joshua.

Still, for a dying sport like boxing, this was a pretty huge deal. And good for Ruiz, becoming the first Mexican heavyweight champion ever.

Sports, man. You never freaking know.

 

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