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.

  • http://www.sasstown.com Cecilia

    Hopefully the challenges facing many of us will remind us to be humble and to have more compassion. And some better financial sense. I agree that the tone with this election is pretty extreme, you think we would have learned to be able to respectfully disagree.

  • http://www.womenbloom.com/blog Allison

    This makes me so sad and discouraged. I was just saying over at Blogher, the nasty tone in this country right now is our biggest problem. We have met the enemy and he is us. When did we become so ugly and bitter that we could make a comment like this to someone in such a situation? We have so many serious problems of which Laura and Marcygirl are examples and all we can do is savage each other? Where did this come from??

    I’m so sorry that we are in this mess. I can’t imagine being in the fix y’all are describing. Ms Meta’s idea of taking extra care in looking around our patch to see who ‘looks normal’ but may need help is an excellent suggestion, thank you.

  • http://metafootnotes.wordpress.com msmeta

    Wow, Laura, that’s quite a story. I’m glad you had the resources and support to make it through such a difficult time. I’m afraid too many of us won’t be as fortunate. Thanks for sharing, and continued good luck!

  • http://www.rebelliousthoughtsofawoman.coom Laura

    That certainly presents some serious room for contemplation. When I lost my job during the high-tech bust in 2001, the downward spiral began. The unemployment checks didn’t last long and were a mere percentage of my pay. No jobs were to be found. I was “lucky” since I was still married and so went to graduate school. Again, no jobs were to be found; not many people are excited about hiring a middle-aged woman for entry level jobs where they cannot be forced to work ridiculous hours at ridiculous pay. So I changed fields again. But those four years of job hunting were emotionally and physically demoralizing and draining. The drain of keeping up our self-confidence and self-esteem in times of trouble is difficult. I cannot imagine what I would have done without the help of my parents–yes, they still help me–without their support, there but for the grace of God go I. It isn’t easy to have to reconcile yourself to being a person who you never imagined yourself to be.

    May we all find a word of comfort and a place of comfort.

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