The new suicide statistics for middle-aged American men, which show a marked rise in suicide for middle-aged men (and women), belie the myth of The Lone Ranger. Men don't thrive as rugged individualists making their mark on the frontier. In fact, men seem to be much more likely to end up killing themselves if they don't have traditional support systems.
The suicide stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that middle-aged men (35 to 64) living in the American West are more likely to commit suicide than men living elsewhere in the United States, and that suicide has risen fastest over the last decade in a Western state, Wyoming, as Richard Florida pointed out here last week.
The geographic caste of suicide underlines the communitarian argument made by Emile Durkheim in his classic work, Suicide. Durkheim stressed that men (note that men kill themselves at much higher rates than do women) are more likely to commit suicide when they get disconnected from society's core institutions (e.g., marriage, religion) or when their economic prospects take a dive (e.g., unemployment). So, men are more likely to thrive and survive when they have a job, a wife, and a community connection to a church or some other group that grounds their lives.