Pam Cytrynbaum

Pamela Cytrynbaum

Because I'm the Mom

Midlife and Suicide: Why Are We Killing Ourselves?

May is Mental Health Month: Suicide rates among the middle aged have skyrocketed

Posted May 15, 2013

Is there something about living in midlife now that makes more people want to die?

May is Mental Health Month. Our collective mental health is a crucial topic for us to discuss all the time. May gives us a great excuse to take a deeper look. What we’re seeing is not pretty.

Sharp rise in midlife suicides

It’s a stark, distressing question that many researchers and mental health experts are asking now as studies are being released like this one from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as reported by one of my favorite writers, Tara Parker-Pope in The New York Times, in a story headlined:

Suicide Rates Rise Sharply in U.S.

 Suicide rates among middle-aged Americans have risen sharply in the past decade, prompting concern that a generation of baby boomers who have faced years of economic worry and easy access to prescription painkillers may be particularly vulnerable to self-inflicted harm.

More people now die of suicide than in car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which published the findings in Friday’s issue of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. In 2010 there were 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes and 38,364 suicides.”

And experts are calling the problem “vastly underreported.”

Midlife Depression?

What’s going on?

Nobody really knows for sure.  According to the story:

“But C.D.C. officials cited a number of possible explanations, including that as adolescents people in this generation also posted higher rates of suicide compared with other cohorts. ‘It is the baby boomer group where we see the highest rates of suicide,’ said the C.D.C.’s deputy director, Ileana Arias. ‘There may be something about that group, and how they think about life issues and their life choices that may make a difference.’

Such a sharp rise is disturbing in many ways, of course. We’re also seeing an extraordinary rise in the number of suicides among members of our military as well, as many as 22 deaths per day - that's nearly one every hour. What's going on?

Let's let the designated mental health month push us to think more deeply about problems and solutions to this disturbing trend.

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