MidLife Suicides: Blaming The Victim?

by msmeta of Adventures at Midlife

There’s a startling and rather depressing discussion going on at Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast over the American Journal of Preventative Medicine’s newly released study on baby boomers and suicide:

[B]etween 1999 and 2005, the suicide rate lept by 3.9 percent among white women aged 40 to 64, and by 2.7 percent among white men in the same age group—increases of 35 and 33 percent, respectively. Suicide in other groups decreased or remained steady, prompting one of the study’s co-authors to label middle-aged whites “a new high-risk group.”

Why are Boomers taking their lives? The news reports cite several possibilities: deteriorating access to mental health care, higher rates of prescription drug use, and more reluctance among women to undergo hormone replacement therapy during menopause. But online, in feedback sections and message boards, many Boomers have their own theories: outsourced jobs, too much atheism, piling debt, and being forced to care for their elderly parents.

This information has been reported on several other news outlets I’ve run into, but The Daily Beast opened its site for discussion, and some of the reports were hard to read, like this one by Marcygirl:

Even though I worked since I was 14, it wasn’t at the same job and have no retirement, so I was forced to realize that I’d probably have to work until I die. And that was doable until I got caught in the economic crash and not only lost my home, but my job was in real estate and I lost my job. Then I hit a brick wall with medical issues and, now, at 58 years old I’m 3 weeks away from being evicted from my rental, with no place to go, a state, county, and federal system that has no suggestions for people like me and the only answers I receive are “I don’t know, we have senior housing, but there’s a 2 year waiting list”. I am now becoming one of the invisible people and know that 3 weeks from now I have to walk out this front door and just keep on walking.

And the comments to these stories! Yikes!

Seriously, you poor, sad baby boomers make me sick [wrote Aaronthethird]. You all feel like life is unfair and too hard and poor baby doesn’t have life handed to them on a golden platter. Its your pathetic selfishness that has lead this country down the path to ruin that it has found itself at the end of now. Seriously, shut up.

Do we deserve this kind of vitriol? Indeed, did we deserve to have our mortgages and retirement and savings eaten up by an economic downturn fueled by vanity and greed? Please. Say it ain’t so, Joe.

Sure, I know people who have been consumed by conspicuous consumption. When my well-heeled brother divorced a few years ago, there were no assets to divide. None. He and his now ex-wife had spent everything he had ever made on their upscale life. (And was she pissed!)

But most of my friends and family have had more modest aims: a comfortable home in a safe neighborhood where they could kick back, raise their kids and pursue their lives. All of my friends and family have contributed to the comfort of elderly parents, and none of them plans to live with their kids. And most of them, men and women, have had two jobs at one time.

We aren’t lazy. We aren’t entitled. We planned for the future. The future just collapsed on us. I really believe most of us will dig ourselves out of the rubble, dust ourselves off and go on. But some of us — represented by those sad voices in The Daily Beast — are ill-equipped to move ahead.

If I do nothing else, I know I’m going to scan the horizon and look for those in my little patch of ground who might need some help and encouragement. But I fear they may be hard to recognize. Said one Daily Beast respondent, after cataloguing the debris of her life, “If I do commit suicide, it will be a great surprise to many, because I look pretty normal.”

Welcome to the new normal.

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