Suicide rates have traditionally been the highest among teens and the elderly, but a new study shows a surprising rise in suicides among the middle aged. NBC News discussed this disturbing trend, citing a CDC study showing that the number of suicides for people between the ages of 35 and 64 has risen dramatically.
Dallas, TX suicide attorney Skip Simpson knows that the number of suicide-related deaths now surpasses the number of deaths in car accidents. A larger number of these deaths are occurring among middle-aged Americans, leading experts to speculate about what is driving this dramatic increase in suicides.
Suicide Rates Rising Among the Middle Aged
The recent CDC data on suicides shows that:
- Between 1999 and 2010, there has been a 28 percent rise in suicide rates for people between the ages of 35 and 64. At the same time, suicide rates for young people and those over 65 have remained steady.
- Those ages 50 to 54 and 55 to 59 had the biggest increase in suicides, with the fatality rate increasing by 48 percent and 55 percent respectively.
- In 2010, 33,687 people died from car accidents while 38,364 died from suicide. Traditionally, car accident deaths have been a top cause of fatalities so this new change reflects a distressing increase in the number of suicides.
- The suicide rate for middle aged Americans has increased the most among non-Hispanic whites, American Indians and Native Alaskans.
- There has been an increase in the number of suicides by hanging, suffocations, poisoning and self-inflicted gunshot wounds.
- While men are still more likely than women to kill themselves, suicide rates increased by 32 percent for women and by 27 percent for men.
The increases in suicides among these specific sectors of the population indicate that the higher number of deaths may be related to bad economic situations.
While the CDC does not address the reason for the rising suicide rates, others argue that both unemployment and home foreclosures lead to an increased number of people taking their own lives.
While recessions in the past have not generally resulted in a major increase in suicides, there is a clear link between suicide and unemployment with the unemployed having between two and four times the suicide rate of the employed. Further, the current high number of foreclosures is unprecedented, and it is clear that both a job loss and the risk of losing a home would create a situation of high stress.
Identifying Suicide Risks
Middle-aged Americans who are coping with depression and stress as a result of their job losses or foreclosures may be better equipped to get help for themselves from mental health professionals than teens or the elderly. After all, people in this age group likely have more knowledge of the types of mental health help available than teens do and have more control over their own healthcare choices.
The middle-aged may also be more mobile and more able to see a psychiatrist or psychologist than someone who is elderly. Therapy has also become more widely accepted and there is greater understanding of depression and mental health than in the past.
Yet, despite the fact that getting help may be easier, the rising suicide rates show that it is either not effective or that those considering suicide aren’t reaching out for assistance. Another likely consideration suicide rates are not falling but increasing is because of a lack of suicide training in the mental health field. This point is made in Preventing Suicide through Improved Training in Suicide Risk Assessment and Care: an American Association of Suicidology Task Force Report Addressing Serious Gaps in U.S. Mental Health Training, Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior 42(3) June 2012, authored by seven top suicidologists and Skip Simpson.
When someone does seek help, it is important for the mental health professionals to be aware of the increased suicide risks among the middle-aged and to take action if there are red flags. Since most suicide prevention programs are aimed at the young and the elderly, preventing suicides among the middle-aged may be largely uncharted territory for some professionals.