David Lester, a psychology professor at Richard Stockton College in New Jersey, has likely thought about suicide longer, harder and from more angles than any other human. In more than twenty-five-hundred academic publications, he has explored the relationship between suicide and, among other things, alcohol, anger, antidepressants, astrological signs, biochemistry, blood type, body type, depression, drug abuse, gun control, happiness, holidays, Internet use, IQ, mental illness, migraines, the moon, music, national-anthem lyrics, personality type, sexuality, smoking, spirituality, TV watching and wide-open spaces. Has all this study led Lester to some grand unified theory of suicide? Hardly. So far he has one compelling notion. It’s what might be called the no one left to blame theory of suicide. While one might expect that suicide is highest among people whose lives are the hardest, research by Lester and others suggests the opposite: suicide is more common among people with a higher quality of life. If you’re unhappy and you have something to blame your unhappiness on—if it’s the government, or the economy, or something—then that kind of immunizes you against committing suicide, he says. It’s when you have no external cause to blame for your unhappiness that suicide becomes more likely. I’ve used this idea to explain why African-Americans have lower suicide rates, why blind people whose sight is restored often become suicidal and why adolescent suicide rates often rise as their quality of life gets better.
Steven D. Levitt
On June 15, 2013, Ethan Couch killed four pedestrians and injured two others in Westlake, Texas.[ 13] Mr. Couch killed Breanna Mitchell, whose car broke down; Hollie and Shelby Boyles, who came to assist Breanna; and Brian Jennings, a youth minister who also stopped to help. In addition, Mr. Couch critically injured two of his passengers, Solimon Mohmand and Sergio Molina.[ 14] The sixteen-year-old teen admitted to speeding and being drunk when he lost control of his pickup. Tests revealed he had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit and traces of Valium in his system at the time of the accident.----------------On December 10, 2013, Eric Boyles, the man who lost his wife Hallie and only daughter Shelby in the fatal accident, discovered that Mr. Couch would serve the minimal time in prison for his actions.[ 16] In fact, Mr. Couch was sentenced to exactly zero days in prison. Although Mr. Couch was driving 70 mph in a 40 mph zone, had a blood alcohol level of 0.24 and had valium in his system, Judge Jean Boyd granted Mr. Couch extreme leniency.[ 17] In lieu of prison time, the Judge sentenced Mr. Couch to ten years of probation and In assessing the ruling, a New York Times Article suggests the defense of affluenza played a critical role in the decision. The Article stated: Judge Boyd did not discuss her reasoning for her order, but it came after a psychologist called by the defense argued that Mr. Couch should not be sent to prison because he suffered from ‘affluenza’ — a term that dates at least to the 1980s to describe the psychological problems that can afflict children of privilege. Prosecutors said they had never heard of a case where the defense tried to blame a young man’s conduct on the parents’ wealth. And the use of the term and the judge’s sentence have outraged the families of those Mr. Couch killed and injured, as well as victim rights advocates who questioned whether a teenager from a low-income family would have received as lenient a penalty.[ 19] This has been a very frustrating experience for me, said prosecutor Richard Alpert. I am used to a system where the victims have a voice and their needs are strongly considered. The way the system down here is currently handled, the way the law is, almost all the focus is on the offender.
Renwei Chung