The Centers for Disease Control recently released the findings of a study that shows that the highest increase in the number of suicides is being observed in people 45 to 54 years old. From 1999 until 2004, the last year for which numbers were collected, middle-aged suicides increased by 20 percent. This is the highest rate since the CDC began keeping track approximately 25 years ago.
The groups traditionally studied are teens and the elderly, but the numbers for 15 to 19 year-olds increased less than 2 percent during this period, and people over 65 are actually now taking their lives less frequently, although the number does rise after the age of 85.
New York Times reporter Patricia Cohen wrote that “for officials, it is a surprising and baffling public health mystery.” Excuse me, but it’s probably surprising to them only because they have secure government jobs with guaranteed pensions paid for by Ernie and Bert, who unload boxes stamped “Made in China” onto the receiving dock in the back of Wal-Mart for $8 an hour. And their bosses in Congress and the White House, whose food, gas, lodging are subsidized by the average middle-aged American, certainly don’t have a clue as to his/her state of mind.
Oldsters have the best numbers because they get happier when they hit their 65th birthdays, that magical moment when they can kiss goodbye paying a fortune in medical insurance premiums and go on Medicare. People older than 54 and younger than 65 are caught in a double bind. No one wants to hire them, and they are too young for the government program.
When they hit 65, they can trash the costly and crappy policy with the $5,000 deductible, the best they could get because they once suffered from something more serious than an ingrown toenail, and actually be able to go to a doctor when they are sick.
This group has also typically seen hard times. They recognize that what’s coming down the pike is a lot like the 1970s without the bellbottoms, only worse, and if they are older, they may have memories of the Great Depression and war years, so things don’t seem all that bad to them.
The study revealed that while suicides in this group increased by 20 percent, among women the number is 31 percent, a figure that send chills up and down my spine. Why are my sisters suffering so?
Maybe they’re depressed because they still earn less than men and because there are fewer good jobs available to them, especially those lucrative acting jobs in financial services or drug spots that feature a handsome sixty-year- old guy with a slim and much younger spouse who is enjoying his money or his erection, or both.
I’ve often wondered if the wife’s prematurely gray hair is natural or if this is the new “blondes have more fun.” I’m waiting for the study that shows that not eating enough fat to nourish brain cells causes early dementia. Then working women will have jobs pushing the skinny bitches around at the nursing home.
I once read the autobiography of a woman who wrote about her attempted suicide. As far as I could tell, she had never had to work to survive, nor had she suffered any serious life setbacks. Her family was well off, and she had spent most of her life basking in the sun on the sands of New England beaches.
If somebody plopped me on Cape Cod, I think I’d overdose from happiness. There’s that big pond with all those yummy bass skimming through the clear water. And the sandy dunes, walks on the deserted beaches, and the great restaurants. A hardship, really.
I’m not saying she wasn’t actually suicidal or depressed, but she had professional help from several hospitals, top-notch therapists and support groups. She got the best drugs and had a circle of loving and understanding family and friends. Maybe if you have enough money, you can afford to be suicidal, because when you get to that point, you can punch in the number of your health-care-provider-of-the-day. It’s programmed into your phone–your kitchen phone, your bedroom phone, your cell.
You never really have to take that final step, because someone will grab you by both arms just as you reach for that bottle of pills, razor blade or handgun.
And if, like the author, you have oodles of money, you can fix the problems that make you suicidal. Confused? Go find yourself at a retreat in the Rockies. Unplanned pregnancy? Get an abortion, and make a vacation of it. Husband left you for a trophy mate? Rent yourself a hunky gigolo. Lost your job? Write a memoir. As I recall, her reviews were mixed.
There are people whose suicides could be understood. They are poor, abused, oppressed. Some have been mutilated and scarred. Some live in wretched conditions, drink water contaminated by their own shit, eat once a day if they’re lucky, and receive no medical care. They lose their loved ones to war, famine, disease.
In the United States, there are people who have never ventured more than a couple of miles from the urban tenement or rural shack where they were born. All of their waking time is taken up with figuring out how to survive.
Many suffer in prison for minor offenses, and they survive, somehow. Someone is depending on them. Their children, their parents, community, society. They become stronger. They may despair, but there always seems to be a glimmer of hope. Something good is just around the corner. If I kill myself, I’ll never discover what it is. These are people who have never known good times yet still hang on.
The government tells us inflation is low, the economy is fine, and that unemployment is less than half of what it really is (How many of those middle-aged people ran out of unemployment payments and then couldn’t find any sort of job?). Inflation is literally a tax on income, and if inflation (caused by the government that increases the money supply to save its sorry ass) is 10 percent, you need a 10 percent raise just to stay even. Good luck with that.
Unless they are aware of the manipulation of numbers, a person who is busting his or her butt but keeps falling behind wonders what is wrong with them. The government and media have been saying that everything is cool. Where have we failed? Two recent AP headlines contained the word “soar.” The articles aren’t about our spirits soaring or prosperity soaring, however. They are titled “US Home Foreclosures Soar in January” and “Wholesale Inflation Rate Soars.”
Many men and women have taken unwise risks to put their families into nice homes and give them what they perceive is necessary for quality of life. The average American family is portrayed by the media as having every gadget and innovation that is on the shelves. This is done through programming and advertising, so that you will direct deposit your paycheck into the account of big business while the government (which in other countries prohibits marketing to children) looks the other way.
The government is not your daddy, and big business is not your mommy, except that they do spank you if you don’t make the right choices, for example if you don’t buy whatever it is they’re selling, whether it’s the misinformation being sold by the government or the faulty and unnecessary crap being sold by business.
And if you resist, they’ll just consolidate until they own the industry and control everything you buy, read, view, love. And the government will be right there to give business a hand, including big finance by hanging the foreclosure sign on your door when you can’t pay the mortgage they pushed you into.
And speaking of this cozy collaboration, the number of 10 to 24 year-olds (a broader range of the young) taking their own lives has jumped, some suspect because of the effects of legal antidepressant drugs. Drugs may also be linked to the suicide rates of the middle-aged group.
Of course people are depressed, and if they have a life insurance policy, they are likely to consider suicide if it means their family will be cared for. It is generally accepted that many fatal car crashes are actually suicides committed by people who purchased their policies less than two years earlier, since most policies exclude this cause of death if it occurs within that period.
As times become harder, I expect that insurance companies will eliminate the two-year period altogether and refuse to pay up when there is a suspicion that a death is a suicide.
People in the middle generation are being squeezed for their last nickel before the national buying frenzy comes to an end. This group includes the boomers, a word I usually associate with fireworks, but folks, there ain’t nothing to celebrate now. Soon all of our time will be spent figuring out how to feed our families, patch the knees of our jeans, and repair our own cars.
The barter system may come back into use as the value of paper money sinks, especially since wages aren’t keeping up. And then when there aren’t any wages. Give you two dozen eggs for a day’s work.
Okay, enough with the bad news–is there any good news on the horizon. Well, no. I’ve yet to hear any of the major candidates talk about how they will relieve the suffering of the average American or shore up our crumbling economy, infrastructure and pride. If anybody gets saved, it will be the financial institutions, not us.
We watch congressmen grill CEOs who receive fortunes in salaries, benefits and retirement packages, even though they lost the retirement savings of their investors, and we find it unbelievable. Remember that those same congressmen and women have pissed away billions (trillions? I can’t comprehend the numbers any more) of dollars of our money but are also not held accountable.
It’s interesting that while the presidential candidates promise us the moon in order to get elected, they don’t mention where the money will come from. Might as well empty your pockets and put anything else you have left into a big brown envelope and just send it to them now. And remember: If you elect the same people who brought us this mess, don’t expect a different result.
Hopefully, down the road, after the recession/depression that no one wants to admit is upon us has run its course, the 45 to 54-year olds will feel better about themselves. By then, we will all have learned to be more responsible, self-sufficient, and less reliant on government, which, hopefully, will look very different than it does today.
This is the age group from which we will want to select new leaders, people with life experience who are young enough to have the energy to apply it. They will be survivors of the tough times ahead and I am encouraged will also, like true patriots before them, fight for what is good for the country and the people.
The bottom line is that we all want to feel better, and the only way to do that is for all age groups to pull together and support the changes that must be made. Whatever it takes.