A sense of “rugged individualism” may contribute to the fact that the Mountain West states have some of the highest suicide rates in the nation, according to an expert in Cheyenne.
Linda Goodman, the chief clinical officer at Peak Wellness Center in Cheyenne, said people suffering from depression or other issues in Wyoming and other rural states resist seeking assistance from counselors.
“The rugged individuality is a big piece of it,” she said. “The mentality that ‘I just need to cowboy up and be tough.’ That rugged individualism says ‘I need to be able to handle my problems by myself.”
In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control set Wyoming’s suicide rate at 26.9 per 100,000 people, the third highest ranking in the country. Wyoming joined Montana, Utah, Idaho and Colorado among the states with the 10 highest suicide rates in the nation.
Nationally, suicides have contributed to what was reported in a Detroit newspaper as a reduction in the life expectancy of Americans.
Author Mitch Albom wrote that death rates are rising among working class people who are middle aged and older, largely from what he described as “deaths of despair,” suicides and complications that arise from alcohol and drug abuse among people who believe they cannot achieve the “American dream.”
Goodman said she believes such feelings are often seen among the children of families who survived the Great Depression and World War II and vowed to give their children everything they needed to live the American dream.
“And for some of us, that is looking less and less like the American dream we had envisioned,” she said. “For some Americans today, it means having to let that dream go and if you don’t have the resilience to have another dream that emerges, then you are left with despair.”
Many people found themselves homeless or broke with the turbulent economies of recent years,” Goodman said.
“For people that had the ability to say ‘I’m going to drop back … I’m going to get back on my feet,’ that was fine,” she said. “But for people who did not have that, they turned to ways to avoid having to deal with those problems. That can be through the use of alcohol, it can be through the use of drugs, it can be through depression …”
Goodman said one thing that can help someone suffering from despair is for those people to help others who are less fortunate.
“There’s nothing that will help you more to feel like you have meaning in your life than to help someone else,” she said.
This story has been updated. A previous version of this story misstated the suicide rate.