When my mother was 51 and I was finishing my senior year of college, she killed herself. Read More
I do not doubt that a mother's death is upsetting. But I very strongly believe in an individual's right to die and to choose when and how to do so without interference from the western medicine machine or the government.
I want do gooders kept off of my body.
My father committed suicide at 56 after retiring early. When his house didn't sell, he found he needed to go back to work to help make ends meet. There was no one willing to employee a 56-year-old who had worked in one profession all his life. The wall of ageism that he met led to depression which contributed to his suicide. I got over it because I worked it out through writing, which helped me make sense of an irrational act.
As some one who has had a suicide and and suicide attempts in my family from older family memebers, I feel that there are many reasons that older people struggle with mental health issues.
Many have been taught, incorrectly that mental health is almost a forethought. They were taught to "suck it up" and not talk about it. Stigma is a huge problem today but even more so back then. It was not accepted and certainly rarely discussed openly.
I know in my family it was not discussed and kept as a silent secret. To talk about it would have brought shame to the family, having some family members looking at it like mental illness was a sign of failure and not a chemical imbalance or a trauma related event. It was looked at like it was a sign of weakness.
I think these people are afraid that if they get help, they will be looked at differently, rejected by loved ones and coworkers, and maybe that admitting to or receiving treatment for mental illness may mean that the work they have done all of their lives will be for naught. None of these things are true but old thought patterns are hard to break and I truly believe they are afraid.
I love this article as it helps me to understand more of what has happened in my family and what they may have gone though.
Interesting article. I find it interesting that the higher suicide rates in older adults is higher. I'm curious about the possibility of this finding being a generational thing or the result of the economic downturn.
How much does this have to do with caregiving? Today's Sandwich Generation faces a triple decker club or more. This is the first generation of caregivers responsible for parents, grandparents, in-laws and other older adults, children, and grandchildren all at the same time. With all of these people depending on us, plus the economic downturn, visions of travelling, retiring, vacationing, going back to school, starting a new career, may go out the window. Babyboomers are used to our preferences becoming policy. It may be that we are weary, or devastated because we had such great expectations and the reality isn't coming close
My mother took sedatives and went to sleep, not to wake up. She was 66 and very ill. I felt the grief of losing her, but had complete understanding of her decision. She could no longer do the things that brought her joy, walking 15 feet to the bathroom was a struggle. I knew that she had decided to end her life before she lost all of her dignity. I have always respected her decision.
First, my sincere condolences, and thanks, to the author of this article [and to anyone who has ever been touched by the loss of another to suicide] in sharing such a great loss, so that we all might learn from it.
I am not surprised that the suicide rate is significantly higher in the middle to older age range, for many different reasons. As to why: First, we must acknowledge that, individually, we do not all share the same definition of suicide. In posing the question: "If someone were to choose to end their life prematurely due to a cancer diagnosis, would that really be suicide?", some would automatically respond, "Yes". Some would first ask, "What is the prognosis?" Some would believe that doing anything short of everything to save oneself [no matter what you might have to put yourself and/or others through, to do it, let alone the futility of the financial burden] is suicide.
Quite honestly, I'm horrified and ashamed to recall what some were put through to keep them alive up to the last minute [even against their own wishes, and when they were obviously suffering] with everything medically possible, when the compassionate thing to do would have been to assist them in being as comfortable as possible
while nature took it's course. It seems to me that, rather than feed false hope or put oneself through a painful hellish course of treatment[s] out of "duty" to others, it would be better to just accept the reality that one is dying....that we are all dying, everyday. At some point, we all have to let go. It's that "point" that is so controversial.
On another note: Babyboomers were [perhaps, still are] a questioning generation, less bound by religious dogma and rules. Less of us feel like we have to abide by the dogma that we must suffer to the end, no matter what.
No doubt, much can be learned, shared, healed, between oneself and others in the process of dying. Many, while closer to death's door, testified that they [and those close to them] would have lost out on so much if they had given into their initial wishes to end their lives sooner because of the fear and trepidation they were experiencing towards the dying process.
But, I still think it should be up to that individual. I don't believe any of us have the right to decide for others [or should inflict judgment/promote guilt] for a person's decision to end their own life, short of letting nature take it's course.
In fact, even though we all have a certain responsibility to assist others and prevent against the tragedy of someone prematurely ending their life, our laws can also sort of prevent that. What if, instead of automatically locking someone up when they were feeling suicidal, that individual could feel safe and accepted enough to open up, knowing their actions wouldn't necessarily be stopped. It could buy time....maybe enough, so if the individual did follow through with their suicide, they will have, at very least, taken better steps to provide for their loved ones before they left. At best, it would buy enough time for an individual to begin to see past their own clouds and stay....to do whatever they needed to do to continue their own journey towards healing/recovery. Instead we imprison [in whatever ways we do] and, thus, further alienate.
As for other reasons, I think Cheryl E. Woodson, MD: You summed up what I think many Babyboomers feel, just in your last sentence:
"It may be that we are weary, or devastated because we had such great expectations and the reality isn't coming close." And that, not even to mention the burdens of "the sandwich generation" and our economic downfalls....
And then there are the chronic pain issues. I'm so humbled [and horrified] to hear, sometimes, what some must endure on a daily basis. Meditating to decrease pain, positive attitude, doing all of the right things....it all sounds good....until it hits YOU. I know the problems with addiction. Yet, I read these stories....hear of these experiences....I don't know what the answer is. All I know is I am grateful to those who courageously come forth to share their experiences; also in sharing what their previous views and, perhaps, judgments of others with chronic pain were, prior to their own personal experience of chronic pain.
Sharon - Someone planning to commit suicide can't take "better steps to provide for their loved ones after they left." Life insurance, no matter how long its been paid on, does not pay survivor benefits if someone commits suicide.
Kathy: Not true.... it depends on your policy and how long you have had it.
Thirty years ago, browsing through a World Almanac, I came upon suicide rates from the 1920s on. At the time, all public health emphasis was on preventing youth suicide. I was shocked to find that the rate of old age and middle age suicides, no matter the year, were much higher. However, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the implementation of Social Security radically lowered the rate of old age suicides.
It's obvious that conventional suicide prevention no longer works. The organizations that grew up to address the pain from addiction and interpersonal turmoil are helpless to handle the many failures from the continuing Great Recession. What suicide prevention agency can rescue a victim of relentless long term unemployment? As long as the economy ruthlessly discards millions of people as being useless, the number of suicides will increase. With no changes in sight, we'll just need to get used to a high number of suicides as an unpreventable new normal.
My mother was mentally ill and spent years on and off in the most exclusive mental hospitals in the northeast. No expense was spared including multiple psychiatrists. The combination of her illness combined with alcoholism and drug addiction shattered my family and ended with her suicide from a drug overdose in 1971 when she was in her mid fifties,just after she was released from a hospital. My younger brother was diagnosed with autism when he was3 years old, although there was no treatment. He is now 59 and a gentle miracle,still requiring residential care. At one time, there were 8 psychiatrists working on my family, 4 for my mother and 4 for my brother. The secrets were rampant. My mother blamed me for all her problems and targeted me with physical violence and emotional abuse. I know my own truth and speak it.I would not be here today if it wasn't for the caring adults who believed in me.Rachel Pruchno memoir is an inspiration. Thank you.
I'm sorry; that sounds like quite a load to have carried. I am glad you have been able to find some good support for yourself.
Bonnie: Thank you for your kind words. I'm so sorry for the pain you experienced. Mental illness is bad enough. The secrets we keep add insult to injury.
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Rachel Pruchno, Ph.D. is Endowed Chair and Professor of Medicine at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine. Her memoir Surrounded by Madnessis available at online bookstores.
When and how should we open up to loved ones?