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Thursday, April 14, 2011

New Suicide Trend Vs. "It’s a Wonderful Life"

Wonderful Life
Contemplates Suicide
Findings were released today of a study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found suicide rates track inversely with the economy – so when things are financially good suicide rates drop, but when the economy slips the self-kill rate goes up.

Full details of the study will be published in the American Journal of Public Health and the story from Reuters can be accessed at this link.

I guess that type of trend should not come as a surprise, but it is troubling to me because it clearly shows how misguided our materialistic priorities seem to be in this country.

The first thing that came to mind when I read this Reuters’ story, was Frank Capra’s classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  In that 1939 movie, screen legend Jimmy Stewart portrays a clerk at a family-owned building and loan in a small upstate New York town.

The business loses a large sum of money, and Stewart’s character nearly jumps from a bridge to commit suicide as a desperate escape. However, his character’s guardian angel incarnate jumps off the same bridge instead. The reason is that the angel knows that his selfless ward will change his mind about suicide, and jump in the river to save this drowning “stranger.”

That’s exactly what happens and once both are safe to shore, the angel performs a miracle that Stewart’s character wanted to escape financial ruin – the angel gave the bankrupt clerk the chance to experience what the world was like if he’d never been born.

Needless to say, the final hour of the film is a powerful re-affirmation of the incalculable value of life compared to any material thing.  That idea is summed up in a quote from Art Buchwald: “The best things in life are not things.”

I’ve come to accept the fact that life is loss, yet it is also a wonderful gift that we all share. Individually, we’ve all experienced hardship in one way or another whether financial, mental, physical or familial – regardless of the severity – self destruction is not the answer to any problem.  


  1. Where there's life, there's hope!
    Great blog!

  2. Outstanding blog, on quite possibly my favorite movie... of all. I always come back it, as many times I consider myself "George Bailey himself" - for a varuety of reasons.

    I think there were a number of other factors that contributed to George's downward spiral (lifelong and continually thwarted dreams of doing something "great", but always settling for doing "for others"), and that the potential financial ruin was the tipping point of Malcolm Gladwell-ian proportions.

    Still it's a great statistcal observation about the inverse relationship between economic and personal mental stability.

    Well done!


  3. Nice, and am pretty impressed with the Art Buchwald relate, although I wonder how many people even knows who he is.