Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Uncommitted To Life

"The hardship and feelings of failure or hopelessness associated with these conditions [mental health/depression] are compounded by the fact that middle-aged adults are more likely than others to be family breadwinners and supporting dependants."
"What we noticed was that this category of circumstances rose over time among the middle-aged compared to other age groups, and seemed to rise the most right at the time period when the recession was at its peak."
"[With women] there is almost always a very long-standing, deep chronic depression or personality disorder, and often there are multiple, prior attempts [of suicide]."
Katherine Hempstead, director, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton, New Jersey; co-author Julie Phillips
Doctor talking with senior patient in waiting room.
Getty Images

"This group [mental health/depression sufferers] has always seemed to have been at increased risk of suicide. Now we're seeing it manifested as a middle age cohort."
"[Suicide remains a] horrible tragedy. But I think as we move toward conversations about euthanasia, that people can choose, if they're in horrible pain, to terminate (their lives), and that doctor-assisted suicide is OK, why is psychological pain different than physical pain? Some people may have that conversation with themselves."
"The problem is that, if you have a mental illness that is impacting your ability to see things rationally, you may make that decision not being of sound mind, and not understanding that, with some medication, six months later you may actually see things very differently."
Dr. Valerie Taylor, psychiatrist-in-chief, Women's College Hospital, Toronto
Great Recession Tied to More Older Adult Suicides

A recent American study the results of which was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that individuals' financial situation played a role in an increasing proportion of suicides of people between the ages of 40 to 64. Studying the circumstances related to suicides in the United States between the years 2005 to 2010, the conclusion was reached that the most obvious increases occurred during the years of the "Great Recession".

Another statistic presented itself; the choice of methodology by which people ended their lives, and that choice is an astonishingly simple one, but one that requires a great deal of determination to carry through. Suffocation appeared to be the method of choice, such a simple solution to the anguish of carrying on a life that appears increasingly painful, but one difficult to prevent "given the high lethality and wide availability of the method", wrote the study's authors.

Lead author Katherine Hempstead with the Center for State Health Policy at Rutgers University and also at Princeton, New Jersey, observed that the method of suicide by smothering oneself to expiration says much about what the mindset might be like, that drives people to extinguish their lives: "This is an indicator that at least some of these suicidal acts are impulsive." Unfortunately, it is not an impulse that, once carried through to completion, can be reversed.

It is Dr. Taylor's view however, that the baby boom generation has experienced higher rates of suicide incrementally across their lifespan, in comparison to rates of suicide undertaken by previous generations. Canada registered 3,890 suicides in 2009, representing 11.5 percent per 100,000 population, with those aged 40 to 59 representing the highest rates of suicide. Males commit suicide three times the rate of women, but females are three to four times likelier than men to attempt suicide.

In Britain in 2014, researchers also linked the global recession to some ten thousand additional "economic suicides" occurring across Europe and North America. In Canada, suicides rose by 4.5 percent from 2007 to 2009. Earlier studies in the U.S. discovered suicide rates among adults age 35 to 64 increased about 40 percent since 1999, while for other age groups the rate was stable.

Data were extracted from a national death surveillance system in the U.S. where data is pooled on homicides and suicides taken from death certificates and coroner, police and toxicology reports.

The search for trends and patterns in circumstances and methodology among middle-aged suicides between the years 2005 to 2010 led to the definitive gathering of data to support the conclusion; that crushing debt, job loss, home foreclosure and retirement savings depletion can impact mental health so deleteriously as to add to the risk of depression leading to suicide.

In 81 percent of all suicides depression as a personal circumstance was cited with women likelier to have a history of a mental health problem than were men. In roughly a third of all suicides among the middle-aged, economic factors leading to suicide were found; more common among men (39%) than for women (23%).

This was the outstanding category to present with an increase over the period of the study with the most rapid increase between the years 2007 and 2009.

Men are driven by different circumstantial events, more external in nature "like finding out you've lost your job". That is not entirely surprising, since women are more sensitive to inner emotions and to deep interpersonal relationships, whereas men are generally more outwardly driven to find their place in the world of work, investing their value as human beings in what they accomplish in the workplace, finding validation for existence there.

It would be interesting to see a study comparing straitened financial circumstances leading to suicide in the distant past, balancing it with the kind of society we see today so heavily invested in consuming, in acquiring things, in expectations of being surrounded by symbols of achievement in a heavily acquisitive society where poverty has a far different measure than it did when people struggled to maintain themselves and their families with the basic measurements of survival.

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