COVID-19 aside, Oklahoma ain’t doing too hot lately. In fact, a recent clickbaity study by Zippia reported that our state is rated #1 in despair. How’s that for a “Top 10 State?” But I think we need to better understand what this “study” means for us as Oklahomans. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, despair is defined as, “utter loss of hope.” According to Oklahoma, despair is defined as, “utter loss of leadership.”
OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Researchers with Zippia, a resource website for job seekers, says Oklahoma tops the list of states with most despair.
The study was based on the following five categories: depression rate, suicide rate, opioid use, poverty rate and hours worked, all things that researchers say Oklahoma didn’t score well on.
“Oklahoma across the board kind of had low numbers which is a little unusual,” Kathy Morris with Zippia told KFOR. “I wish there was one area we could say Oklahoma needs to focus on to reduce the general rate of despair.”
Zippia says Oklahoma ranked sixth for opioid prescriptions, and had a depression rate just outside of the Top 10, but they still thought it was surprising to see Oklahoma ranked number one.
Usually I roll my eyes at the cherry-picked presentation of data in these clickbait articles, but for once they’re pretty damn accurate. The opioid use, depression, and suicide rates in Oklahoma are appalling. Opioids are addictive and potentially deadly substances and we have a state where the rate of prescriptions are over 50% higher than the national average. On top of that, two years ago Oklahoma had the eighth worst rate of suicide in the country. What’s worse is that since COVID-19 mental health professionals in the state have seen an even more jolting increase in suicidal thoughts and behaviors. But what do we expect from a state that cut about $52 million in mental health and substance abuse care funding over a four year period?
As for poverty rate and number of hours worked, we have to remember that our state sets us up for failure. Sitting pretty at $7.25 per hour, the rate is a third less than what it takes for a single person with no children to afford to make ends meet with a 40-hour workweek. In fact, Oklahoma’s minimum wage hasn’t been raised by our lawmakers since I was a part-time movie theater cashier back in 2008. When are these lawmakers who tout, “personal responsibility,” going to take their own advice?
“We usually see more of a regional focus,” Morris said. “So, Oklahoma being on top with this cluster of southern states isn’t what I anticipated.”
Local experts tell KFOR it isn’t that surprising. Oklahoma has been behind the rest of the country in these areas for a while.
The whole, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality of our state’s leadership is bullshit on multiple levels. For one, contrary to what seems to be typical republican belief, the old saying is less of a proverb and more of a tongue-in-cheek jab at staunch individualism because it is impossible to pull oneself up by their own bootstraps. Two, unless the goal of their policies and laws are to kill their constituents, our lawmakers and leaders have failed us.
Yet, Oklahoma’s elected officials always appear to run on platforms that promise to improve our lives. As Will Rogers once said, “If we got one-tenth of what was promised to us in these acceptance speeches there wouldn’t be any inducement to go to heaven.” Hell, at this point if we got 1% of what was promised in these acceptance speeches maybe all Oklahomans could afford to stay alive.
The national suicide hotline number is (800) 273-TALK (8255). To get connected with other essential needs like food or housing assistance, call 211 or visit 211.org. Follow Hayley on twitter @squirrellygeek