Suicide rates are on the rise for middle-age adults. Did you know that midlife suicide is more common with older Americans than any other age group? Read on to learn the signs and how middle-age adult suicide can be prevented.
Robin Williams’ suicide in 2014 shook the world. Then, within the last month, two other well-known midlife celebrities–Kate Spade (55) and Anthony Bourdain (61) committed suicide. These tragic deaths have brought to the forefront that no matter how someone might appear to be “together” on the outside, it’s difficult to really know what might be troubling that someone on the inside.
The statistics for middle-age adult suicide are alarming. The Wall Street Journal ran an article on June 14, 2018 examining this troublesome trend. They reported that during the period of 2000 – 2016, the rate of suicide for women age 45-64 increased 60% and for men, 37%. The article stated that it is unclear exactly why suicide appears to be peaking in middle-age. A clinical instructor in medicine and psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, Samantha Boardman, offered this possible explanation: “Life satisfaction hits an all-time low in middle age…Juggling responsibilities and managing multiple roles takes a toll and can lead to feeling overwhelmed, a loss of control and despair.”
What are some of the factors driving midlife adults to contemplate and even carry out middle-age adult suicide?
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Depression from health issues. Depression from not being as active as in earlier years. Depression from loneliness from losing a spouse. Depression from not feeling valued. Depression from not feeling connected with other human beings.
This social component of depression is especially critical for older men. “Many men are poorly prepared for retirement, and don’t know how to fill in the hours and maintain a sense of usefulness when they stop working. ‘They often sit around watching TV,’ said Martha Bruce, a professor of sociology and psychiatry at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University in White Plains, New York.” Another factor is widowhood. “Widowers are especially at risk because older men in the current generation tend to depend on their wives to maintain social contacts. When wives die, their husbands’ social interactions often cease.”
How to help older adults feel connected and valued so as to avoid middle-age adult suicide tendencies? Help midlife adults find and maintain a daily purpose for their lives. Older adults should structure their days by maintaining a regular cycle and planning activities that give them pleasure, purpose and a reason for living. Participating with social activities like joining a book club or bowling league, going to a senior center or gym, taking courses at a local college, hanging out at the coffee shop, provides the kind of social activity that wards off depression. Other ways middle-aged adults can promote a healthy outlook and feeling of self-worth is to develop new interests like painting or needlework or volunteering at a place of worship, school or museum.
Middle-age adult suicide is real. With more baby boomers reaching older adulthood, it is wise to become familiar with the triggers for middle-age adult suicide to not only help those we love – but ourselves as well. The key for me is clear: stay active, stay involved, and find purpose in every day.